Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Target clean project

Lenders to gain control for containing corruption, ensuring quality
The long-cherished Padma bridge project will now be implemented with a new approach, with donors having more clout in the procurement to ensure quality work and prevent corruption in the project.
Donor agencies and the government are now negotiating about various options to this end after the main financier, World Bank, has formally revived its $1.2 billion credit deal for the project, finance ministry officials said.
“The government agreed to a series of measures as a pre-requisite for any renewed implementation,” the bank said in a statement, released from Washington on Thursday.
“These include new procurement arrangements with enhanced oversight to ensure transparency and clean construction of the bridge,” it added.
A five-member WB team will visit Bangladesh this week to discuss the implementation of the 6.15km long bridge’s project, government sources say.
The Washington-based global lender unveiled its new approaches after its return to the country’s biggest infrastructure venture.
According to the project’s revised proposal approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on 11 January 2011, construction of the bridge was to start in 2012 and to be completed in 2015.
Following the latest development, the government now expects to start the work next year.
“We went through a lot of troubles. Now our hope is to start the field-level work by February [next year],” Finance Minister AMA Muhith told the BBC yesterday.
In that case, the bridge may be completed in 2016.
The WB suspended its credit deal in September last year, raising graft allegation. In June this year the bank cancelled the agreement, saying it had proof of a “corruption conspiracy” involving some Bangladeshi officials, executive of a Canadian firm and some private individuals, whose identities remained a mystery.
When the government entered a negotiation with the WB in June, just days before the cancellation, the bank had proposed building the bridge on turn-key basis to check corrupt practices. The government had responded positively to the offer, officials say.
Under the turn-key method, the donors will construct the bridge and hand it over to the government on completion.
As per the existing arrangements, the government will construct the bridge and will take consent from the financiers before awarding the project to bidders.
The WB statement yesterday, however, did not clarify the new implementation approach.
The approach will be finalised through discussion between the donor agencies — the WB, the Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Islamic Development Bank — and the government, said officials.
The WB team will also comprise operation specialists, who will review the situation on the ground and the present status of the project’s implementation before settling for any option.
The team will also talk with the Anti-Corruption Commission about a fair investigation into the alleged graft.
During its Dhaka visit, the team will sign two agreements with the government — one with the Economic Relations Division on the project’s implementation and another with the ACC on investigating the alleged graft.
According to the WB statement, the government has already agreed to investigations proceeding in a full, fair, and expeditious manner, and an independent external panel to review the ACC inquiry and report its findings to the government and the WB.
Finance ministry officials say the government wants to start the construction at the soonest as building the bridge was a key election promise.
But for the WB, ensuring transparency and quality work is the top priority, according to the bank officials.
“If implemented properly, the Padma Bridge has the potential to deliver remarkable benefits to the people of Bangladesh, who deserve transparent use of public money, clean implementation of the project and a high-quality bridge to spur growth and development for years to come,” the WB said in the statement.
A finance ministry official said the government was now serious about checking corruption in the project. The finance minister has already held several meetings with top government officials on quick and graft-free implementation of the project.
The government also plans to form a steering committee led by Muhith to oversee the work.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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