Govt blames WB for putting Padma Bridge project tender on hold

Urges lender to go ahead, delisting SNC-Lavalin
The government has blamed the World Bank for putting the Padma Bridge project tender process on hold, saying there is no valid ground on suspension of its funding, considering the record of transparency, honesty and pace of the works so far, about the project.

In a press note, released by the Press Information Department (PID) Thursday, the government said it has assured the global lender of giving exemplary punishment to anyone responsible for any graft if it is detected and also about keeping the project execution process corruption-free in the future.

The government proposed the WB to go ahead with the task of selecting the contractor for supervision of the construction works, delisting the alleged Canadian bidder SNC-Lavalin.

The World Bank has earlier suspended funding for the US$2.9 billion Padma Bridge project on alleged grounds of corruption in the process of short-listing the contractors.

It said some rip-offs have been found in selecting bidders for the main construction works of the bridge and also for its supervisory activities which forced the Bank to suspend its committed $1.20 billion loan disbursement.

The PID press note said: “The government has already assigned Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for investigating the alleged graft in selecting pre-qualified bidders for construction work, as claimed by the WB.”

The government expressed the hope that the WB would assist the ACC’s investigation and its result will be come out soon. “Stringent measures will be taken after probing the allegation.”

The press note said the WB has also suspended process for endorsing the short-listed bidders for the river training works relating to the Padma Bridge.

“The government does not consider this action by the WB as logical. We have requested the Bank to withdraw the suspension order,” it said.

The Washington-based lender had also been requested to start the tender process shortly for the construction of the approach-road of the Padma Bridge on the Mawa side, the press note said.

It said: “In the meantime, the tender process for the approach road on the Islamic Development Bank (IDB)-supported Janjira side has started. Based on IDB’s endorsement, it will be finalised and the work order will be given soon.”

The PID statement said the complexities have emerged first when a list of the pre-qualified bidders for main bridge construction work was sent to the World Bank.

The WB wasted three months’ time for reviewing a technically disqualified construction firm through the tender process which was scraped by the government-appointed technical committee due to its lack of requisite qualification for doing the work, it added.

In another investigation, the global lender has found that a Canadian firm has violated rules for Padma Bridge construction supervision works, the press release added.

The Bank has already been informed that since it is not firmly indicated the time that it would require to complete the investigation, the concerned firm can be blacklisted and a new one from among other short-listed firms can be selected for the work of supervising the construction works, the PID noted.

Furthermore, the government informed the WB that no allegation had so far been made by any quarters about land acquisition and rehabilitation of the affected people for the Padma Bridge project.

“Land acquisition and rehabilitation of the affected land owners are going on and it will continue in the future. Financing for this work will also continue as per the deal,” it said.

The PID statement said as the governor of the World Bank (on behalf of Bangladesh) the finance minister maintains that the complexities will soon be resolved and works for construction of the Padma Bridge project at different stages will be completed swiftly.

The press note said the cabinet has decided to establish shortly an “Infrastructure fund” for upgrading the country’s infrastructural facilities.

The PID statement criticised the role of the media saying there was a tendency on its part to politicise the issue.

“For this reason, the government has decided that the real picture of the Padma Bridge issue should be made clear to all concerned in order to remove any misconception,” the press note said.

Reuters reports: Bangladesh Thursday urged the World Bank to reconsider its decision to withdraw $1.2 billion in financing for the country’s longest river bridge, saying it will root out any suspected corruption in the tender process.

A World Bank spokesman in Washington said last month that Canadian authorities were investigating employees of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc for possible corruption in the bridge project.

The World Bank suspended the credit until the issue had been resolved.

The Finance Ministry said Thursday that Bangladesh had proposed that the tender process move forward without the Canadian firm.

“The government has taken the allegation of corruption very seriously and the guilty, if found, will be punished,” Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said.

The $2.9 billion bridge over the Padma River will connect the northwest of the country to the capital Dhaka and the port of Chittagong in the south.

Bangladesh topped the list of world’s most corrupt countries for five years until 2005, but the rating has slightly improved over the past few years.

UNB adds: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the leader of the opposition not to utter such words in public statements that may retard the process of the country’s economic development.

“Please don’t do any politics over the Padma Bridge which is closely related with the economic development of the country,” she said at a meeting of Awami League Parliamentary Party (ALPP) held Thursday at Sangshad Bhaban.

She said that the Padma Bridge would help usher in great economic opportunities for the people.

Meeting sources said that the Prime Minister informed the ruling party lawmakers that the initiative to construct the Padma Bridge was taken during AL’s previous tenure (1996-2001). Later, the BNP communication Minister made some irregularities relating to the project.

“The World Bank has not made any corruption charge against the AL minister,” she said.

Hasina said that the opposition staged road march to save the war criminals. She directed the ruling party lawmakers to expose all the evil deeds of the BNP-Jamaat and to project the good deeds of her government. further adds: A ruling party MP has made a startling claim that the communications minister won his office by winning a race set no-one else but by prime minister Hasina.

The Awami League deputy, Golam Maola Rony, said at a talk show on a private TV channel last Monday, “This is a gift from the prime minister. We know, because we are so close to him.”

When asked whether his story was factual, he told the on-line news agency last Wednesday: “Why would I lie on a TV talk show?”

Patuakhali MP Rony’s statements, shown on Tritiya Matra, a talk-show on Channel i, stirred a storm on the social media website Facebook and blogs. The video has been shared countless times on Facebook.

At one stage of the show, Rony described to his host and co-discussant how Abul Hossain had become the communications minister.

“When she was the opposition leader, she went to China once, around 2004/05/06.

“You know the prime minister is a simple person. Sometimes she chats and sings with others, creates a homely environment.

“At West Lake, she said, ‘Get me a whistle’. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Obaidul Quader and Syed Abul Hossain were there.

“She said, ‘I’ll blow this whistle and the three of you will run. Whoever becomes first will be a minister.”

“Now she’s the party chief, so Quader and Saber complied and ran. But Abul Hossain took it very seriously. He ran really fast and became first.”

“Then he came to the prime minister and said, ‘you have made a commitment, so you must make me the communications minister.’

“The prime minister resisted, saying it was a joke, that she was the opposition leader and there was no guarantee she would become the prime minister.

But he got that commitment from her. Later, he reminded the prime minister of the commitment when he became an MP.

“This is the true history of his becoming the communications minister. Whatever else he says, it did not happen in reality. We know, because we are so close to him.”

However, Rony said he was not accompanying Hasina on that tour.

In another incident, Rony said Abul Hossain had told him, “Across the globe transport minister means the aviation ministry is under him, so also are the communications ministry and the water transport ministry. The truth is that, despite running my work with such skill, I get a lot of spare time.

“If they can’t run the aviation, they should give it to me. The water transport minister should give his ministry to me if he can’t manage.

“I can run all of them. I want to show them how to work.”

Rony also described the behaviour of the communications minister in parliament, adding, “He does not understand that people are joking with him. He thinks they laugh because they are appreciative.”

“Ask the communications minister. If he denies, I will talk again,” Rony told the agency when pressed for whether his observation was objective.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury and Obaidul Qader were not available for the comment on Rony’s extraordinary tale.


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