Plagued by Cor­rup­tion

The World Bank has re­cently can­celled fund­ing for the Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh amidst al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, thus jeop­ar­diz­ing the coun­try’s most am­bi­tious project to date.

Southasia - - Bangladesh -

ore than of­ten, in­fra­struc­ture projects in South Asia meet their demise in the throes of cor­rup­tion, some­times even be­fore the project has ma­te­ri­al­ized. The men­ace of cor­rup­tion has taken its toll on the de­vel­op­ing world in more ways than one. The Padma Bridge Project in Bangladesh is the most re­cent deal to bite the dust amidst al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in the op­er­a­tions and ex­e­cu­tion of the project.

In late June this year, the World (Is­lamic De­vel­op­ment Bank).

As per reg­u­lar pro­ce­dure, the WB launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion against SNC-Lavalin, of which it in­formed the Bangladeshi of­fi­cials last Au­gust, post­pon­ing loan dis­burse­ment for the project. The Bank claimed to have found ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the ap­point­ment of a con­sul­tant and the se­lec­tion of con­struc­tion firms for the project, sub­mit­ting a for­mal re­port to the Ben­gali Fi­nance Min­is­ter in this re­gard, who agreed to black­list SNC Lavalin to guide lenders about the progress of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The first pro­posal was not im­ple­mented by Bangladeshi of­fi­cials. The Fi­nance Min­is­ter is­sued a prompt state­ment fol­low­ing the WB de­ci­sion to can­cel fund­ing, stat­ing that, “the prob­lem with these pro­pos­als was that we were forced to ad­mit the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions be­fore they were sub­stan­ti­ated.”

As for the sec­ond pro­posal, the ACC was al­ready in­ves­ti­gat­ing into the Bank can­celled fund­ing for the Padma Mul­ti­pur­pose Bridge Project on grounds of ‘high-level’ cor­rup­tion among Bangladeshi gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als in­volved with the project, and the ex­ec­u­tives of SNCLavalin: a Cana­dian com­pany that won the bid for su­per­vi­sion con­sul­tancy dur­ing con­struc­tion of the bridge.

This would have been the largest bridge in the coun­try, in­volv­ing a to­tal con­struc­tion cost of $2.9 bil­lion. Bangladesh’s GDP growth was expected to in­crease by 1.2 per­cent on com­ple­tion of the project.

In April 2011, the World Bank agreed to pro­vide $1.2 bil­lion credit for the project, mak­ing it the largest con­trib­u­tor amongst all de­vel­op­ment part­ners (DPs). Other DPs in­volved in the project in­cluded JICA (Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency), ADB (Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank) and IDB

By Si­jal Fawad from the bid­ding process. The mat­ter was later taken up by the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion of Bangladesh (ACC) for in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Con­tin­u­ing with the Cana­dian in­ves­ti­ga­tion at their end, the WB found two of­fi­cials of SNC-Lavalin guilty of cor­rup­tion, with one of them claim­ing to have of­fered com­mis­sion to some key Bangladeshi of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing bu­reau­crats and politi­cians, in ex­change for get­ting the com­pany se­lected for the job.

The WB de­manded the gov­ern­ment to take three mea­sures in light of their find­ings. First, to send all sus­pected gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials on leave un­til the com­ple­tion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Sec­ond, to ap­point a spe­cial team within the ACC to look into the mat­ter and, third, to share all in­ves­tiga­tive in­for­ma­tion with a des­ig­nated panel of the WB, cre­ated specif­i­cally mat­ter. But with re­spect to the third, there was some hes­i­ta­tion as the ACC is an in­de­pen­dent body, not an­swer­able to any for­eign agency. Yet, the or­ga­ni­za­tion agreed to share in­for­ma­tion and re­ceive ad­vice not just from the WB but from all de­vel­op­ment part­ners in­volved in the Padma Bridge project.

The Bank, how­ever, was not con­tent with the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse and in a state­ment is­sued on June 29, made a spe­cial men­tion that “In light of the in­ad­e­quate re­sponse by the Gov­ern­ment of Bangladesh, the World Bank has de­cided to can­cel its $1.2 bil­lion IDA credit in sup­port of the Padma Mul­ti­pur­pose Bridge project, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.”

For Bangladesh, the Bank’s de­ci­sion leaves a rather sorry mark, af­fect­ing the coun­try’s im­age and per­cep­tion amongst in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.