Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the standard of the country's roads and highways is very poor although the government allocates a big amount of money every year for their maintenance and repairs.
The minister said contractors will be penalised if any negligence is found in completing projects within scheduled time.
He said the government will stop financing a project if the authorities concerned fail to implement the project properly.
The finance minister also said money will not be allocated for the maintenance of a road for a long time and suggested collecting money through toll on vehicular movement on highways.
The prime minister has repeatedly instructed introducing a system for toll collection on highways, Kamal said.
Renovations of roads have to be done with toll money. It will not be possible for the government to pay a big amount of money every year for road repairs, he added.
The road development projects are often taken up without assessing its viability with regard to financing and implementation, he said.
"You are awarding a lot of projects to some contractors while they are already stuck with many other projects. For this reason, projects are not being completed within stipulated periods. Eventually, the project costs increase," the minister told roads and highways officials.
He also put emphasis on improving the quality of work rather than increasing the number of projects.
He was addressing a seminar on lifetime of highways at the National Economic Council conference room in Dhaka yesterday. The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) arranged the programme.
Mustafa Kamal also suggested introducing an automatic toll system, adding that a prepaid meter should be installed in every vehicle. Bills will be automatically paid when a vehicle crosses a specific toll plaza.
State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid presented mismanagement on roads and highways through a power-point presentation.
"The problem on roads lies with proper planning and management of road transport. Funding is not an issue here", Nasrul.
Meanwhile, officials of road and highways blamed overloaded-vehicles, lower load capacity of soil, low quality of bitumen and other construction materials and poor allocation for maintenances as main reasons behind substandard conditions of roads.
While presenting a keynote at the seminar, Superintending engineer of RHD AK Mohammad Fazlul Karim said the government allocated only 19 percent or Tk228.91 crore against the required amount of Tk11,884 crore for road maintenance last fiscal year.
Representatives of civil society urged that good governance be ensured regarding expenditure for roads.
They also put an emphasis on formulating a long-term masterplan for road transport system.
In his speech, road safety activist and actor Ilias Kanchan compared the roads of Bangladesh with those in Malaysia and India, and he rejected claims that roads are decaying due to torrential rain.
"Despite repeated orders from the prime minister on using concrete in road construction, workers are using bitumen, which is the main cause of early road decay," he said.
Columnist Abul Maksud blamed corruption in the sector. "If corruption can be reduced by 1 percent, stability of roads will double," he said.
Former chief coordinator for SDGs Affairs at the Prime Minister's Office Abul Kalam Azad said construction contractors should take the responsibility of maintenance.
"Those who get the job of road construction should also be given the responsibility of maintenance. As a result, the quality of work will be good and it will require less maintenance."
AK Mohammad Fazlul Karim, in his keynote, said 5 percent overload can reduce a road's life expectancy by 18 percent, while 10 percent overload can reduce it by 32 percent.
Buet Professor Dr Shamsul Haque said overloading has to be reduced to make highways sustainable.
The roads and highways should be constructed as per international standards. Drainage should be incorporated in an integrated way to ensure there is no water logging. If these can be ensured, then longer life expectancy of roads is a guarantee.
Secretary to the Road Transport and Highways Division, Nazrul Islam presided over the seminar.
Nasrul Hamid presents image of mismanagement
State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid presented some pictures of mismanagement on roads at the event.
Presenting a photo, he said, the Mawa highway is being constructed over a channel which connects two rivers beside Sadarghat. But a pillar of the road closed the channel.
He said, "The persons who is in charge of a single project sees nothing. They don't even look at the design details. Whose money will be wasted? Should your budget be increased? You are wasting all this money."
Presenting another photo, he said construction of the road has ended and an underpass has been built, but no one wants to take responsibility for this.
He also said a side line was constructed beside the underpass. Car will go by the line and also by the underpass.
"When you build a road, you have to look at the sequences around it," pointed out the state minister.
He also presented a picture of a bridge in Keraniganj which shows a breakdown of the divider along the bridge and some random arrangements on it, and said, "Is there a huge budget deficit for this?
Presenting Postgola Bridge, the Minister said, "You are collecting toll while there is no speed breaker. Hundreds of cars are being jammed to collect toll."
To reach the Padma Bridge, someone must cross the bridge, said Nasrul Hamid adding that if the toll system is not improved, a day will require to reach Padma.
He also presented a photo of the BRTA office where many people are working, CNG cylinders are placed on the side.
Showing another picture of the BRTA office with two brokers in front of the counter he said, "This is also a picture of yesterday. How will you expect a fitness certificate from them properly?"