Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has found irregularities in 16 steps out of 20 in the government’s free book distribution scheme for primary and secondary students.
There were political influence and corruption in preparation of manuscripts and publication and distribution of books in the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB)’s flagship scheme.
The Berlin-based graft watchdog unveiled the findings of its study on the government’s free textbook distribution scheme at a press conference at its office in the capital on Monday.
The study suggests that NCTB’s manuscript preparation process is not transparent as they are not being written properly and the process is “crippled by political and ideological influence”.
TIB said that before NCTB floats tenders for selecting publishers, a section of its officials divulges information of the government’s estimated cost to some publishers who later mutually submit tenders.
About the distribution process, TIB said some districts sent book receipt letters to the board saying that they received books on time even though they faced delay.
Allegations were also levelled against some board officials who, TIB said, take part in the book publishing tendering process and get work order, posing as publishing house owners under dubious names.
Most of the institutions that got printing work order allegedly engage third party in printing, binding and laminating of textbooks under subcontracts.
The study also found that board officials concerned give printing paper supply order to institutions having no BSTI certification taking bribes from them.
Use of poor quality paper and ink in textbook printing, failure in timely completion of printing, and providing false certificates by the monitoring agency about completion of printing work on time were found.
Although the NCTB is an autonomous body, the ministry of education has full control over it that leads to appointment of members in different committees of the board in accordance with the government’s recommendations.
As the process is under control of the government, political influence plays a big role in picking those members, for which accountability of NCTB officials and supply of quality books cannot be ensured, TIB said.
On the other hand, lax monitoring is also a major hurdle to supplying quality printed textbooks.
TIB study found a tendency of accommodating ruling party’s ideology in textbooks and the ideologies of religious fanatics.Moreover, the institution also lacks skilled and technically sound manpower and specialists.
Sometimes, some eligible people are excluded from the board’s committees on political consideration while write-ups and some specific words are changed without following national curriculum with the change in state power.
TIB executive director Dr Iftekharuzzaman called for making the board a full-fledged commission by dismantling its existing structure and accommodating seasoned people to make it transparent.
TIB’s suggestions also include introduction of e-tendering while awarding textbook printing orders.
“Despite the commitment to building a knowledge-based society, NCTB has recently brought about changes to textbooks to fulfill the demands of a communal force,” Dr Iftekharuzzaman said.
On the other hand, the board is being operated with the directive of the education ministry in absence of a necessary circular on NCTB operation rules for a long period of time, he added.