Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed annoyance over unnecessary foreign tours by government officials, at a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday.
After the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan told journalists that the prime minster chastised government officials for making unnecessary trips abroad while approving a project to set up a chancery complex in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The prime minister pointed out that before setting up a chancery complex in a foreign country, a team of officers visits the country to select a place, then another team goes there to survey the area, and finally a third team goes to sign agreements. The prime minister directed officials to make a system where one team can go to a foreign country and carry out all the necessary work to set up a chancery complex.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also said that we could not buy land in many countries because we wasted time in arranging overseas trips. Sometimes the price of the selected land in those countries increases, or the chosen plot was sold to someone else.
The work to build a chancery complex in Pakistan's capital Islamabad started in 2007, and was scheduled to end in 2010. But at the Ecnec meeting on Tuesday, the time limit to finish the project was extended to 2022. Its cost has increased from around Tk30 crore to around Tk80 crore.
Earlier, in an Ecnec meeting on October 23, the prime minster warned government officials about unnecessary foreign trips. At that meeting she approved a revised proposal for building a chancery complex in Saudi Arabia.
A source who was present at the Ecnec meeting on Tuesday said, the prime minister observed that unnecessary foreign trips by government officials are invariably included in most projects. Foreign tours for five officials were proposed for her own project "One House One Farm."
She excluded the proposal for those trips because she found it unnecessary, but then the process of approval for the project halted. When the foreign tours were included again, the process for approving it advanced.
The issue was discussed at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Planning. The committee said, foreign tours by government officials are intended for gathering knowledge and enhancing skills, but these usually turn into pleasure trips and shopping tours.
Thus, a huge amount of taxpayers' money is frittered away, said the parliamentary committee in the meeting. The committee also vented anger over the waste of public funds through corruption and irregularities in development projects.
According to the minutes of the meeting that was finalised recently, many government officials go abroad for training even without knowing the topic of the training.
Committee chairman Abul Kalam Azad presided over the meeting held on September 18. Planning Minister MA Mannan, among others, was also present there.
The chairman said that only government officers who are directly involved in the projects should be selected for training abroad.
Committee member Saber Hossain Chowdhury said the government does not have any statistics on how much knowledge gathered by officials during foreign training is being used in project implementation.
He also noted that many officers get transferred to another ministry soon after they get training. In such cases, their knowledge does not benefit the projects.