No decision before graft probe report: WB

The World Bank on Wednesday said it will not take any decision about the Padma bridge funding before the corruption investigation report comes out even though discussion with the government is on-going.

“We are waiting for the preliminary outcome of investigation (on Padma Bridge),” said World Bank country director Ellen Goldstein at a meet-the-press on Local Consultative Group plenary meeting at the Economic Relations Division office in Dhaka.

“We have problems with it (Padma Bridge) but 30 other projects involving $4.7 billion is going on,” she said.

ERD secretary Iqbal Mahmood said Padma bridge project was continuing and would continue.

The government and the global lending agency went at loggerheads when the Washington-based agency came up with corruption allegations in the project and the then communications minister Syed Abul Hossain was apparently removed from the post.

The $2.9 billion bridge is the biggest ever infrastructure project in the country.

Implementation problems

The government and the development partners discussed about how implementation of projects with foreign aid can be accelerated.

“We have discussed how reform in the public finance management can be accelerated and how we can deepen and streamline the public procurement system,” Goldstein said.

Project approval often takes a lot of time, which frustrates the government and its partners and the staff should stay in the project until its completion, she added.

Secretary Mahmood admitted that staff transfer was a problem and delayed projects.

“We also discussed speedy appointment of consultants by the development partners,” he said, “Delay in project approval is an obstacle and we will request Planning Commission to look into the issue.”

Aid disbursement

The secretary claimed that aid disbursement and commitment was better than that of last years and it would continue to grow in future.

“Last year we received $1.7 billion foreign aid and this year until January we received $1.01 billion and we expect to get $2 billion disbursed by the year-end,” Mahmood said.

The aid commitment has topped $14 billion and both the parties are engaged in discussions in how it can be better utilised, according to the secretary.

The World Bank country chief said until March her agency disbursed $300 million and it is expected to be $ 0.5 billion by the end of the year and 10 to 15 percent higher than the last year’s disbursement.

The disbursement of other agencies is same or better than last year’s, she added.

Aid commitment

The World Bank mission chief said the committed fund would be disbursed but Bangladesh needed capacity to spend it.

“The fund is yours and you will get the committed fund. What you will have to do is spend it. From our part we will look after whether it is spent on the purpose it is intended to,” she said.

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