Muhith pushes ball into WB court
The government will make utmost efforts to implement the Padma Multi-Purpose Bridge project without awarding contract to any consultancy firm against which the World Bank (WB), the major financier for construction of the country’s longest bridge, will raise objection for their alleged corruption and irregularities.
“We have urged the WB to appraise us of any errant shortlisted consulting firm so that we can go ahead in constructing the Padma Bridge without making any further delay,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters at a press briefing at his secretariat office Monday.
“The government cannot afford to wait for a longer period as investigation into corruption charges against a Canadian company, which was shortlisted along with four other consulting firms, might take two to three years,” he added, referring to discussions held between the visiting WB’s Vice-President, Ms. Isabel Guerrero with him and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday.
Muhith said the decision now lies with the WB.
“The government has no bias towards any firm, but wants to fulfil its commitment to construct the much-talked-about Padma Bridge,” the finance minister added.
Canadian authorities are investigating the allegation of corruption against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, involving the $2.9 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge project.
SNC-Lavalin is one of the companies that took part in the bid for obtaining supervising consultancy of the bridge project and was shortlisted including other four companies for the job.
The WB signed a 40-year deal in April last to extend $1.2 billion as loan to Bangladesh to build a bridge linking its underdeveloped south with the capital, Dhaka, and the country’s main sea-port, Chittagong.
An international consortium, led by the WB, last year agreed to lend Bangladesh up to $2.9 billion for the six-kilometre (four-mile)-long multipurpose bridge over the river Padma.
Muhith on Saturday said the main construction work on the Padma Bridge will be delayed due to the allegations lodged with the donors.
He said all the necessary documents and papers of the bridge were sent to the donors for their consent and those got the approval, but put on hold because of the complaints.
The finance minister said most of the complaints are false, the trend of which is seen to gain momentum while starting implementation works for almost all development projects.
He said due to the allegation and reservation expressed by the WB, the work on the construction of the bridge will be delayed by about three months.
“As awarding the contract for the main bridge has been put on hold, the construction work is going to be delayed,” he said.
He, however, said rehabilitation work is going on in full swing, while the tender for the construction of an approach road with financial support from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) will be awarded soon.
Ms. Isabel Guerrero arrived in Dhaka on Saturday on a two-day visit to Bangladesh mainly to discuss with the Prime Minister about the ongoing developments relating to the Padma Bridge project.
She held discussions with Muhith and Hasina on the whole gamut of issues concerning developments about the Padma bridge project and the allegation against a consulting firm.
The finance minister said the government is going to issue bond to mobilise $400 million from local source to finance the Padma Bridge.