Promotion is expansion, says a Bangla proverb.
Filled and fueled by the mantra, the Ministry of Social Welfare recently sent a Tk12 crore project to the Planning Commission to run a wide publicity campaign about its activities.
Under the project, audio, video and cinema contents will be made and commercials will be circulated in print and electronic media to let people know about the social services they can avail.
However, the commission sent the proposal back to the ministry saying there are a number of publicity projects currently going on.
The project proposal said the Department of Social Services is implementing most of the social safety net projects to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to become a middle-income country.
But due to lack of publicity for these activities, people are often deprived of the desired services, said the proposal, adding, "The project is being taken up to make all the activities of the department available to the public."
However, the Planning Commission observed that there is no rationality for taking such new projects now.
According to the commission, the Ministry of Information is carrying out two similar projects at Tk59.63 crore and Tk139.62 crore. Therefore, the commission thinks that there is no need to take a new project now for the same purpose.
A meeting of the Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) was recently held at the Planning Commission on the proposal of the Ministry of Social Welfare. Apart from the rationality, the meeting discussed the proposed project spending.
Planning Ministry officials said the proposal was sent back to the social welfare ministry with some suggestions.
While contacted, Mohammad Zainul Bari, Secretary to the Ministry of Social Welfare, told The Business Standard that the Planning Commission might be right about the rationality for the project. The government has multiple projects to highlight development.
"I will personally review the information ministry project. However, it is important to promote the development activities," he added.
Scyswam Wing of the Planning Commission's Socio-Economic Infrastructure Division presented the proposal at the PEC meeting. Joint Chief of the wing Md Mustafizur Rahman said the meeting discussed several issues of the project.
He also said that the proposal has been sent back to make a new one.
Analyzing the proposal, it was found that the project will produce audio, video and movies through an outsourcing firm at a cost of Tk2.11 crore. The advertising to print and electronic media worth Tk2.30 crore will also be conducted on an outsourcing basis.
Apart from these, other activities including training, promotion, software development will be done through outsourcing which will cost Tk5.12 crore.
The commission objected to the Tk20 lakh purchase proposal of digital cameras for the implementation of the project, even though the main work of the project does not involve significant activities of the Department of Social Services or social welfare ministry officials.
Apart from that, four laptops at Tk4.80 lakh, three desktop computers at Tk2.1 lakh, televisions and equipment worth Tk2.54 crore have been proposed for the project director's office.
A review of the proposal shows that the project will cost the maximum of Tk3.17 crore – more than 26 percent of the total project cost – for the use of rented vehicles.
The commission has suggested the social welfare ministry run the campaign through outsourcing without taking up a new project.
According to the PEC meeting minutes, the Department of Social Services has offices at upazila level to disburse allowances to the poor, helpless and destitute people, and people are well aware of the activities. There is no rationality for taking new projects in this regard.
It can be mentioned that the Department of Social Services gives Tk500 per month to the elderly and widows. The Tk12 crore cost for the proposed project for promotional campaigns could bring at least 20,000 more helpless people under the social safety net programmes.