Spat over fees with army
Munima Sultana: BUET has withdrawn its partnership with Bangladesh Army from the Padma Bridge supervision work, putting the project in fresh quandary.
The Bureau of Research, Testing and Consultation (BRTC) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) decided to discontinue the supervision work with the Special Works Organisation (SWO) – West of Bangladesh Army.
They took the decision due to disagreement over sharing consultancy fee, after several meetings held between the two partners went in vain, sources said.
They said BUET showed reservation in carrying out the work jointly, as there was no contract signed with Army in this regard. Army inked a deal with the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) in October 2013 to work as the construction supervision consultant (CSC) of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project.
“We are not working now in the Padma Bridge project as CSC,” BRTC Director SK Sekender Ali told the FE over phone.
He, however, said the university is involved with the project’s other segmental work. He also cited BUET’s increasing involvement in different academic work as the reason behind the withdrawal.
BUET was included in the Padma Bridge project following request from the high-ups, as Army was not experienced enough to carry out the supervision work of two approach roads and selected bridge-end facility as well as the service area development work.
The government’s decision to involve Army in the project also came after its implementation became uncertain due to conflict with the World Bank over corruption issue, which delayed the project by one and a half years.
SWO of Army signed the Tk 2.03 billion CSC contract with BBA, which included its portion of Tk 1.33 billion. But no deal was signed between BRTC of BUET and SWO.
Sources said the budget shown in favour of BUET for the supervision was quite inadequate. Chairman of the project’s panel of experts Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury tried to convince BUET to accept the proposal, but failed.
They also said after BUET’s withdrawal, SWO is now carrying out the supervision work with the help of three foreign consultants and by hiring some local consultants.
But the arrangement is inadequate to manage the extent of works. As a result, many decisions had come late, delaying the project work.
“They (Army) in many cases take time to give decisions as CSC due to their inexperience, for which the project’s work is often delayed,” said a source from the contractor side.
BBA has recently awarded the CSC work of the main bridge construction and river training work of the US$ 2.9 billion project to a Korean consortium company, seeking at least 10 years of experience.
Chief coordinator of the project’s CSC group Brigadier General Abu Syeed Mohammad Masud said BUET’s Water Resource Department has been involved with the supervision work.
Admitting that BRTC is not involved with the work, he said a CSC group has been formed with three foreign consultants and experienced engineers.
When asked about having any agreement with BRTC, he said there was no purview of signing agreement with them. “If necessary it (signing) will be done.”
Project Director M Shafiqul Islam, however, said the project is still getting the support of BUET, when necessary.