Planning Minister MA Mannan said immediate steps would be taken to revise the project of the Department of Agricultural Extension, which had predicted abnormal prices of various products including vegetable cutters (locally known as boti), plates, spoons, spice pots and laptops.
The minister also praised The Business Standard (TBS) for publishing an investigative report on the project on July 18. The report was titled "How much does a Boti cost? It costs Tk10k for Govt".
Responding to a question at a press briefing after the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday, the minister said, "You (TBS) have made an accurate report. The price of a Boti can never be Tk10,000. It is not an overestimate. It is unjustified."
The minister also said that the TBS report has revealed many things.
Minister Mannan said those involved in the formulation of the project would be called on and talked to. Initiatives will also be taken to offset the price of various types of equipment and materials.
Terming the government as a development-oriented one, the minister further said a large number of projects are being undertaken and implemented to keep the pace of development on right track. No government undertook so many projects in the past.
He added that, due to the manpower crisis, it is not always possible to go through every page of all project proposals. Taking that advantage, a lot of unjustified opportunities are being included into projects. The government will be more careful in this regard in the future.
According to the TBS report published on Sunday, the price of each Boti was fixed at Tk10,000 in a project titled Agricultural Mechanisation through Integrated Management.
Not the Boti alone, but other small kitchen utensils, such as plates, plastic bowls, spoons and rice drums, were also priced unusually high. The estimated cost for buying furniture items like chairs, tables and sofas was exorbitant too.
Computers, laptops, smart televisions, air conditioners, fridges and other home appliances were also targeted to purchase at almost double the usual prices.
Under the project, 51,300 pieces of agricultural equipment will be distributed at half-subsidised price.
It will save 50 percent time and 20 percent money in farming as well as reduce crop wastage by 10-15 percent, Department of Agricultural Extension, the implementing agency, claimed in the project document.
The project was approved in the Ecnec meeting on July 14.
The issue of overpricing the project created a discussion across the country following the TBS report.
Consequently, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a notice to Dr Abdul Muyeed, director general of the Department of Agricultural Extension. A three-member committee was also formed by the ministry to investigate the incident.
The Department of Agricultural Extension has taken initiatives to form a separate evaluation committee, said Dr Abdul Muyeed.
Meanwhile, six projects costing Tk1136.84 crore were approved at the Ecnec meeting held on Tuesday.
Of the amount, Tk1028.51 crore will be provided from the government's own funds for the implementation of the project. The rest will come from foreign sources as project assistance.