June 15, 2012, 02:43 PM
Join Date: June 15, 2004
Padma Bridge Financing
Interesting conditions from WB, though I dont like the idea of 'An independent firm has to be appointed to monitor implementation' and 'co-financiers will have to be actively involved in the procurement process'. Rest of the conditions looks fine and will benefit BD interest.
Rejaul Karim Byron
The World Bank has finally broken the ice over its financing of the Padma bridge project proposing five new conditions for the government to ensure corruption-free implementation of the project.
In a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina early this month, WB Vice President Isabel Guerrer elaborated the steps the government has to take to get WB funding for the massive project, finance ministry sources told this correspondent on Wednesday.
In September last year, the WB suspended its funding of the $2.9 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge project on graft allegations. It had committed $1.2 billion.
In her letter, the WB vice president said a high-powered investigation team has to be formed to probe the allegations of corruption in the bridge project.
An independent firm has to be appointed to monitor implementation of the project, the letter said.
According to the WB proposal, the independent firm will not be under the government or any co-financier of the bridge project. It will make its recommendations independently, and the authorities concerned will implement those.
The persons against whom there are allegations of corruption regarding the bridge project would not be in its implementation.
Another condition is that the co-financiers will have to be actively involved in the procurement process for the bridge.
Besides, the WB suggested that as a long term step, the government will take initiative to increase the capacity of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Contacted, a high official of the finance ministry said top policymakers discussed the WB letter in the last few days, and the government replied to it on Wednesday.
The government has disagreed with some of the conditions, and asked the WB to revise those. The two sides will soon discuss the conditions in detail, added the official, requesting anonymity.
On the corruption allegations concerning construction of the bridge, the WB submitted a report to the government in September last year. In April this year, the bank submitted a second report based on the findings of the Canadian government's investigation into allegations of graft in appointment of a supervising consultant for the bridge.
The WB and other co-financiers have extended loan effectiveness deadline several times and the last one will expire on July 27.
Work on the bridge project has remained stalled since September last year.
Against this backdrop, the government has taken initiatives for finding alternative sources of fund. And it has signed recently a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia for funding the bridge project.
Meanwhile, WB Country Director Ellen Goldstein on Wednesday held a meeting with representatives of the project's co-financiers -- Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency -- at the WB office in Dhaka.
The WB's letter to the government and its reply were presented at the meeting, officials of the co-financiers told this correspondent yesterday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Goldstein said the WB did not shelve the Padma bridge project and it was still talking with the government on the issue.
“I remain hopeful, very hopeful about the Padma bridge,” she said at a meeting organised by American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Bangladesh.