Padma Bridge Graft
The World Bank has suggested the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to approach the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for information regarding alleged corruption in the $2.97 billion Padma Bridge project.
It, however, hinted that officials of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc agreed with the government officials on paying money to obtain the job of construction supervision consultant.
ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman yesterday received a letter signed by Leonard F McCarthy of Integrity of Vice Presidency, an independent arm of the World Bank that is responsible for investigating allegations of fraud and corruption in the WB-financed projects.
“SNC officials and/or former SNC officials have or may have agreed to Government of Bangladesh officials varying percentage of the value of the construction supervision consultancy contract in exchange for favourable treatment in the contracting process,” the letter read.
Since the matter is under investigation, it is up to the Canadian police to decide “whether sharing of information would be appropriate and legally permissible,” said WB in response to the anti-graft body’s request made on October 20 regarding information on alleged corruption in the bridge project.
Sources in the ACC confirmed that the commission has already written to the Canadian police and that the ACC is now waiting for a reply.
In October, WB suspended its funding of $1.2 billion for the Padma bridge construction following corruption allegation against Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain and his firm Sahco. SNC-Lavalin Group Inc was one of the participants in the bidding.
The WB decision triggered uproar in the country which has already been suffering from rickety communication system due to unbridled corruption. The media covered the incident with paramount importance while the civil society members took to the street demanding removal of the minister.
Soon the ACC intervened and launched a probe into the allegation by appointing two investigators. The government also wrote to the WB urging it to blacklist SNC-Lavalin and proceed with the Padma bridge construction excluding the Canadian company.
In its reply WB said law does not allow the bank to blacklist any company unless the investigation is over.
ACC sources said investigators have already completed collecting documentary evidence regarding the construction procedure of the bridge. They are now collecting evidence from foreign companies that participated in the bidding.
“Contacting the foreign companies is the only way to dig into the allegation as there is hardly any documentary evidence in support of the allegation,” said one of the top ACC officials.
“Filing of the first information report requires documentary or oral evidence to substantiate any allegation brought against an individual. Only the foreign companies that participated in the bidding may have the evidence,” the official added.
He however assumed that the corruption allegation might not get proven.