In the wake of criticism, the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) has slashed the number of project evaluation outsourced to firms to 32 from 72 in the current fiscal year.
Besides, measures will be taken to lessen steps for private firms for project impact assessment and close monitoring.
The Ministry of Planning said this would ensure quality assessment of the projects and save the government more than Tk12 crore.
Though private firms are engaged to assess project impacts and monitor the work, their expenditures including honorariums of officials, hospitality costs and stationery expenses spend the lion's portion of the total costs of the projects.
In the last fiscal year, a huge cost was estimated for meeting honorariums and stationery items though those meetings took place virtually. The Business Standard ran a report on July 11 on the matter titled "Zoom meetings with zooming expenses".
Subsequently, Planning Minister MA Mannan sought an explanation from IMED Secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah amid widespread criticisms.
In his explanation, the IMED secretary recommended slashing the number of projects and steps evaluated by the outsourced firms.
In FY2019-20, private firms assessed impact and monitored 72 projects at a cost of Tk24 crore. In the previous fiscal year, the number of outsourced evaluated projects was 48 at a cost of Tk15.36 crore.
In the last fiscal year, remuneration of the officials alone amounted to Tk3.26 crore while spending for hospitality was shown Tk64.80 crore. The cost for stationery items in that year was Tk1.38 crore.
Block allocation for supportive manpower was estimated at Tk75,000 per project. The IMED officials thus gobbled up a total of Tk54 lakh.
For 72 projects, more than half of the 504 IMED meetings on impact assessment, monitoring, steering and technical issues took place virtually.
Seeking anonymity, an official at the Planning Commission said the main task of IMED officials is to submit an implementation, monitoring and evaluation report after physically visiting a project site. They are not allowed to visit three projects a month.
However, the officials show more interests in evaluating projects through outsourcing every year with an intent to earn extra money. As a result, the number of projects evaluation through outsourcing was increasing with each passing year.
In the face of opposition from officials after the report published in The Business Standard, it was not possible for the IMED to evaluate 16 projects through outsourcing.
IMED sources further said in the current fiscal year, they have decided to closely monitor three projects from IMED's each sector and evaluate the impacts of each project. This week, a letter will be sent to the IMED's eight sectors, asking them to send their respective lists of projects.
On the other hand, there are allegations of awarding work to outsourcing companies of their choices. Hence, various quarters criticised that most evaluation reports are not up to the standard.