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Persons with disabilities illegally charged extra for safety scheme, finds TIB

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) pay between an additional Tk 1,000 and Tk 3,000 to be enlisted in the government's disability allowance scheme, said a Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) report.

The report said that they also need to pay between Tk 1,000 and Tk 3,000 extra to receive the government's "Suborno card" designated for them.

It added that Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,500 is illegally charged at government hospitals to identify PWDs, and a further Tk 100 to Tk 200 is required for inclusion in the database.

The study also found that the existing action plans for the welfare of PWDs were not inclusive, primarily due to incapacity in the implementation level.

TIB disclosed the report titled "Inclusiveness in Development and Disability: Governance Challenges and Way Forward" during a virtual press conference on 11 February 2021.Conducted between December 2019 and November 2020, the qualitative study aimed to identify the governance challenges that hinder the inclusion of PWDs in the development process. 

Speaking at the conference, TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said that the policymakers didn’t determine the actual number of PWDs. Therefore, their rights and facilities are not properly ensured.   

“Lack of regular monitoring, supervision and control over the institutions providing services to persons with disabilities is marred by widespread irregularities and corruption, which is a matter of great concern,” Dr. Zaman said.  

“Like any other sector, there are instances of collusion and corruption in procurement. Above all, there is a significant deficit in education, health, employment, infrastructure and access to property rights to ensure their fair access, justice and participation. As a result, our development process is not inclusive in most cases for people with disabilities,” he added. 

Regarding institutional capacity, the study said that the purview of social safety-net is still constrained in the recently adopted 8th Five Year Plan as in the 7th Five Year Plan. There is budget inadequacy to create employment for persons with disabilities and make them educated and skilled. 

The study also found that the Social Welfare Ministry and other ministries lack coordination in adopting an integrated action plan. In most instances, the city/Upazila Social Services Offices and Disability Service and Help Centers do not discuss activities relating to the identification of PWDs, disability allowance, loan disbursement, etc.

According to the study, doctors in charge and assistants of some government hospitals have been accused of extorting money to certify people as PWDs. Local MPs and a section of the officials and employees at the Secretariat and District Administrations lobby with the Social Services offices to get the "Suborno Card" for their relatives and acquaintances, even if they are not real PWDs. 

There are allegations against a section of local government representatives at the union level that collect money illegally for “Suborno Card”. There are allegations of political influence as well for disability allowance cards.

The study also found allegations against the National Disability Development Foundation officials-- which provides financial support to NGOs-- of illegally collecting Tk 20,000 to 70,000 to ensure grants. As a result, these NGOs do not implement their promised activities.

Along with 14-points recommendations, TIB recommended separating allocations from the national budget under different ministries regarding disability with an increased Ministry of Social Welfare budget. 

Other notable recommendations included the establishment of disability-friendly institutions, roads, bridges, public toilets; separate units for the treatment of PWDs in government hospitals at districts and Upazilas; establishment of specialised schools and services, and help centres for the PWDs at districts and Upazilas; adequate workforce in all PWDs concerned organisations and organising capacity building training. 

The study also recommended that internationally recognised method(s) to estimate the actual number of PWDs should be followed. 

TIB Research and Policy (R&P) Programme Manager Farhana Rahman presented the research findings on behalf of the research team.