All suggestions, made by the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division in the last 27 years towards implementing the Annual Development Programme have only fallen on deaf ears.
Neither ministries nor other divisions have heeded those recommendations. Thus, the same old problems persist and ADP implementation goes on at a snail's pace every year.
In the ADP for fiscal year 1991-1992, work on 96 projects was hampered by a delay in preparing project documents, 30 projects for complexities over land acquisition, 32 for a delay in invitation of tenders, 32 for a delay in signing agreements with donor agencies and 25 projects for a delay in appointing consultants.
In that year, Tk1,200 crore out of the ADP outlay of Tk7,500 crore could not be spent as work on 349 projects out of 898 was hampered owing to 12 different issues, according to an IMED report.
Every year the IMED comes up with specific suggestions for resolving problems regarding ADP implementation but such suggestions remain ignored.
Over the years, the ADP size and the number of projects have increased, and so have the problems related to the implementation of projects.
The same old problems, such as delays in preparing project designs, releasing funds, procurement of construction materials and appointment of consultants, still persist, according to an IMED report prepared to appraise the progress of ADP implementation in the last fiscal year.
The IMED report also identified some more issues such as no market analysis being there prior to approving a project, approving more projects than the implementing agency's capacity, not preparing work plans for projects, and frequent transfers of project directors.
Delay in shifting of utilities, not ensuring quality of construction materials, and not having arrangements for maintenance of project materials and infrastructure are also responsible for sluggishness in project implementation.
The IMED report will be presented before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the meeting of the National Economic Council on Thursday.
The actual ADP size for fiscal year 2018-19 was Tk1,80,869 crore. Later it was slashed to Tk1,76,620 crore.
At the end of the year, spending stood at Tk1,67,186 crore, which was 92.43 percent of the original ADP and 94.65 percent of the revised ADP. Some Tk13,683 crore for the development sector could not be utilised.
Experts have noted that project works remained stuck for years because of the same type of problems, resulting in a constant escalation of costs.
Long-standing problems remain unresolved as ministries, divisions and project implementing agencies have not been taking the IMED recommendations into cognisance.
The annual progress report on ADP implementation in fiscal year 1991-92 identified these problems as longstanding ones.
The report recommended holding ministries and divisions accountable for lagging behind in implementing projects, but no visible initiative to this end has been taken in the last 27 years.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said the problems need to be resolved, but he sees no possibility of quick solutions to them.
Citing an instance, he said the authorities faced problems in land acquisition as the state does not have ownership of lands.
"Officials procrastinate in implementing project works. Project directors do not stay in their respective project areas.These have become regular features which will stay for a few more years,"Mannan said, adding that the IMED would be decentralised in order to inject dynamism in its monitoring activities.
Dr Zahid Hussain, former lead economist at World Bank's Dhaka office, said there had been no qualitative improvement in ADP implementation except for a gradual increase in allocation.
He held bureaucratic tangles responsible for the situation.
The problems in development work remain the same as those that were there before. But as evaluation is done in a piecemeal way, the number of problems seems to be more, the economist told The Business Standard.
Dr Zahid Hussain said that manpower and other capabilities of the IMED had not increased in line with a hike in the government's allocation for development work.
Besides, carrying out the IMED recommendations is not legally binding on other agencies.
He said efficiency of officials in implementing projects was not being evaluated. There should be recognition of good work and punishment for negligence, he remarked.
"If this situation continues, project implementation will not improve. It will take time to get the benefits as project works remain stuck year after year," Zahid Hussain said.
He also said, "Bureaucratic complexities have to be reduced to ensure quality in the implementation of projects. A big reform in the Public administration is required for this. That is not possible without political goodwill."
IMED Secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah told The Business Standard that there was an initiative to introduce an IMED office at the district level but offices would be opened at the divisional-level under a new directorate due to some systematic problems.
He said eight directors, led by a director general, would work in eight divisions. As a result, the project monitoring at field-level would be decentralised. In this way, the work load on the central office will decrease.
The IMED secretary also said at present there was scope for monitoring a project at a maximum twice a year. When the directorate general office is introduced a project could be monitored even four times a month.
He claimed that though secretaries of other divisions did not take the issues into cognisance before, the situation had recently improved somewhat. He said, "The prime minister herself now gives importance to the IMED. Letters have been sent to the secretaries of all ministries and divisions through the cabinet secretary. I myself also send letters to the secretaries mentioning specific problems. These are bearing some good results."