The tenure for building 10 high schools in Dhaka and adjacent areas has already ended but the much-talked-about project, mired in severe allegations of financial mismanagement, has only progressed 2% in three years.
The education ministry made the project director officer on special duty (OSD) in 2019 after receiving complaints of irregularities against him during land purchase.
Now, the ministry wants to extend the project for another year and is working to prepare a revised budget for it, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni confirmed to The Business Standard (TBS).
Eight months have elapsed since taking the decision on 10 March this year but that, too, has seen almost no progress thus far.
Meanwhile, the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education is going to appoint a new director for the project soon.
Professor Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the directorate, confirmed this, saying the new project director will prepare the necessary papers for the project extension.
The education ministry launched the project to meet an increased demand for quality education in Dhaka city and adjacent areas, he also said.
Defending the first project director, Golam Faruk said, "It [making the project director OSD] is not a good sign actually. The ministry made him OSD but did not find any evidence of financial irregularities against him."
However, the project director could have been more aware in implementing the project, he remarked.
The education ministry had initiated the project in 2017 to establish 10 high schools along with residential facilities for head teachers and a Shaheed Minar for each school.
The estimated project cost was set at Tk673 crore, seeing Tk400 crore for land acquisition and the rest for the construction of buildings.
The ministry, in 2019, cancelled a Revised Development Project Proposal (RDPP), for this project, after receiving allegations of irregularities, said ministry sources.
The project officials in liaison with a group of influential officials of the ministry allegedly tried to have the RDPP worth Tk1,124 crore – 67% more than the original cost – passed by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).
But their efforts went in vain as the Central Monitoring and Evaluation Committee ruled against it, said the sources.
The committee's first meeting, chaired by Kazi Monirul Islam, asked for further revising the RDPP. After that, the process of increasing the project cost was halted.
The issue of serious irregularities in the school project was the talk of the country last year. Following that, the education ministry formed a committee to probe allegations of fund embezzlement against the project director.
However, the committee did not find any evidence in this regard.
At a virtual meeting with Education Minister Dipu Moni in the chair on 20 September, the project director said that Tk13 crore was spent on land purchase and to meet other operational costs.
Papers for only two pieces of land, out of 10, have been prepared while those for the rest are under process. However, the project did not get any land for constructing buildings, meeting sources said.
The meeting decided to build a gymnasium at each school instead of make residential buildings for head teachers.
Dr Md Amirul Islam, the project director, told TBS that complexities in acquiring land has delayed the project.
"I was not involved in any irregularity. But, a group of corrupt people worked against me and influenced the ministry to take action against me," he also said.
"Actually such a project needs at least 10 years to implement properly. We initiated to enhance the tenure for three years more. But, everything got messed up," he added.
The 10 schools which are scheduled to be built are: Poshmdi Government High School in Keraniganj, Joarshahara Government High School in Khilkhet, Baipail Government High School in Ashulia, Hemayetpur Government High School in Savar,
Satarkul Government High School in Badda, Nabinagar Government High School in Savar, Dhamrai Government High School in Dhaka, Jalkuri Government High School in Siddirganj, Mouchak Government High School in Siddirganj, and Purbachal Government High School in Rupganj.