- Lawmakers getting indirectly involved in graft through implementation of development projects
- They allegedly received one-time kickbacks directly deposited to the party fund or through their personal assistants (at 1-2 percent rate) from contractors
- They received an allocation of Tk15 crore each for IRIDP-1, and Tk20 crore for IRIDP-2
- Elected lawmakers receiving such allocations since 2005-06
- Contractors taking opportunity not to maintain standards in work for political reasons
Implementation of development projects through a section of the lawmakers is resulting in their indirect involvement in corruption, research by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has revealed.
It notes that contractors are also taking the opportunity not to maintain standards in their work for political reasons.
TIB unveiled the research report at a press conference on Wednesday. TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman presided over the programme while Juliet Rosetti, programme manager of the research and policy department, presented the report.
The report said there are allegations that parliamentarians have received one-time kickbacks directly deposited to the party fund or through their personal assistants (at 1-2 percent rate) from contractors.
The report was based on a review of 628 schemes under the first and second phases of the Important Rural Infrastructure Development Project (IRIDP).
Lawmakers do not get money directly from the projects. They just choose schemes. The Local Government Engineering Department implements the projects according to the chosen schemes of lawmakers.
The IRIDP projects are implemented in 280 constituencies across the country, excluding city corporation areas.
IRIDP-1 was implemented between 2010 and 2015, and there was an allocation of Tk15 crore for each constituency for it.
On the other hand, the allocation was Tk20 crore for IRIDP-2, which began in 2015 and is supposed to finish by this year.
Recently, a fresh Tk20 crore allocation was made for IRIDP-3 for rural infrastructure development, including road and bridge construction.
Elected parliamentarians have been receiving such allocations since 2005-06. The Local Government Engineering Department implements different schemes according to the choices of parliamentarians under the projects.
The TIB report said a segment of lawmakers are using the projects to exercise political power locally, to ensure votes in elections, and to gain financial advantages through immoral means.
Moreover, the absence of effective monitoring, overall evaluation of projects and code of conduct related to honesty and interest of lawmakers is further facilitating the institutionalisation of irregularities and corruption.
Even if the parliamentarian of a specific constituency takes initiatives for monitoring progress of work and resolving complaints, a segment of lawmakers favour irregularities in order to exert political influence and for financial gains. This throws transparency and accountability into question.
The TIB report said kickbacks at fixed rates, sometimes as lump sums, are transacted among various stakeholders at different stages of tenders, and withdrawal of final bills and security deposits.
Although e-tendering has been introduced to curb corruption, irregularities exist in a systematic way where supervisory bodies, contractors, lawmakers, local public representatives and influential syndicates are involved.
There is a lack of initiative and interest in disclosing information on irregularities due to legal impediments, fear of false charges and harassment.
Types of irregularities and corruption
According to the TIB report, in some cases, on the recommendation of a lawmaker, the Local Government Engineering Department's evaluation committee selects tenders for preferred contractors by receiving kickbacks.
Lawmakers' representatives working as contractors and a section of local government officials control implementation of development projects and extortions in an area. They force negotiations with representatives of the ruling party in exchange for money.
A section of local representatives, such as union parishad chairman/ member, municipal mayor, councillor and commissioner, tend to not do quality work while working as contractors.
Contractors are forced to purchase construction materials from local politicians involved in the business of such materials, such as bricks, rods, sand and cement. Intimidation, including obstruction of work, is used if materials are not purchased.As a result, they are forced to compromise, compelled to have low quality and less quantity of materials.
Sometimes, a few contractors form a syndicate and work is distributed among themselves on the basis of mutual agreement. In many cases, work is sold to influential contractors in an area on the basis of a dividend of 5 to 10 percent. The authorities have also complained about such compromises in some cases.
New and less experienced contractors often submit tenders by using licences of the more experienced ones.
The TIB report noted that according to field observation, overall 77.8 percent of work was completed.There was partial progress in 17.8 percent of schemes, and no progress in 4.4 percent.The quality of work in 33 percent of schemes that were partially and fully completed was not good.
Complaints about quality of work were made in 18.8 percent of schemes when work was in progress. Overall, local people complained to the Local Government Engineering Department's engineers in 40 percent of cases, and to the parliamentarians concerned in 3.5 percent of cases.
Locals also complained to contractors, union parishad/upazila/municipality chairmen,union parishad members, ward commissioners, and local politicians and respected community members.
Despite complaints, there was no visible change in the quality of work in 76.1 percent of schemes. Some of the reasons are officials concerned ignoring complaints, a nexus between contractors and officials and setting specific rates for kickbacks in every scheme.
Iftekharuzzaman said locals want parliamentarians to play a role in the overall development of their respective areas, but not to interfere in project implementation.
He said not only lawmakers but local officials will also have to be prevented from implementing development projects.
"Contractors are also involved in politics directly and indirectly, and we need to get rid of this culture," he said.
He added, "There has to be a law that bars local officials from getting involved in public projects and with contractors. Such a law exists in many countries."