Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed dissatisfaction over the slow implementation of development projects and of the tendency of extending their tenure, which increases costs because of repeated amendments.
She has directed the concerned authorities to check the obstacles that get in the way of completing projects in the predefined time.
She gave the instructions at a virtual meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday. Planning Minister MA Mannan disclosed the information at a virtual press briefing after the meeting.
The minister said at the briefing, "The prime minister has expressed dissatisfaction over the slow pace in development work, and has asked all concerned to expedite it."
He said the lack of coordination has come to her notice. "She repeatedly asked different departments to strengthen coordination."
Six projects approved
Mannan said the meeting approved six projects at an estimated cost of Tk1,136.84 crore. The government will provide Tk1028.51 crore and the remaining Tk108.30 crore is to be collected from foreign sources in the form of project aid.
Of the six projects, four – three for the water resources ministry and the other for the agriculture ministry – are new. The other two are old projects with revised proposals.
The Ecnec approved the revised proposal of the expansion and development of the Khulna shipyard project. The project's revised cost is Tk259.21 crore, up from the initial estimate of Tk98.90 crore.
The Khulna Development Authority started implementing the project in July 2013 and was supposed to finish it by June 2015. The tenure of the project has now been extended for an additional seven and a half years, until December 2022.
The cost of the project went up 2.62 times, and the tenure 4.75 times, which led to a loss of Tk160.31 crore.
The Ecnec also approved the revised proposal for a project of the Roads and Highways Department in Narayanganj. The cost of the project increased 2.14 times, and tenure 3.47 times.
The project, which started in February 2016, was designed to be finished by June 2017, but the tenure has now been extended to June 2021.
The revised cost of the project is Tk260.41 crore, which was Tk121.57 crore for the original project. The government will have to spend an additional Tk138.84 crore because of the project's sluggish progress.
Minister lauds The Business Standard report on boti
Mannan praised The Business Standard for publishing an investigative report on an agricultural project on July 18. The report was titled "How much does a Boti cost? It costs Tk10k for the govt".
The minister said immediate steps would be taken to revise the project of the Department of Agricultural Extension, which had estimated abnormal prices of various products, including vegetable cutters (locally known as boti), plates, spoons, spice pots and laptops.
Responding to a question, he said, "The Business Standard has published an accurate report. The price of a boti can never be Tk10,000. It is not an overestimate. It is unjustified."
He said the report had revealed many things.
Mannan said those involved in the formulation of the project would be called in and questioned.
"Initiatives will also be taken to offset the price of various types of equipment and material."
Terming the government a development-oriented one, the minister further said a large number of projects are being undertaken and implemented to keep the pace of development on the right track.
He said no government has undertaken so many projects in the past.
It is not always possible to go through every page of all project proposals due to a manpower crisis, Mannan said.
"Taking advantage of that, a lot of unjustified opportunities are being included in the projects. The government will be more careful in this regard in the future."
Background of boti report
According to the report, the price of each boti was fixed at Tk10,000 in the project titled "Agricultural Mechanisation through Integrated Management".
Not only the boti, but other small kitchen utensils, such as plates, plastic bowls, spoons and rice drums, were also priced unusually high. The estimated cost for buying furniture items like chairs, tables and sofas was exorbitant too.
Computers, laptops, smart televisions, air-conditioners, fridges and other home appliances were also targeted to be purchased at almost double the usual prices.
Under the project, 51,300 pieces of agricultural equipment will be distributed at half-subsidised price.
It will save 50 percent time and 20 percent cost of farming a crop, as well as reduce crop wastage by 10-15 percent, the Department of Agricultural Extension, the implementing agency, claimed in the project document.
The project was approved in the Ecnec meeting on July 14.
The issue of overpricing created a discussion across the country after the report was published.
Consequently, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a notice to Dr Abdul Muyeed, director general of the Department of Agricultural Extension. A three-member committee was also formed by the ministry to investigate the incident.
The Department of Agricultural Extension has taken initiatives to form a separate evaluation committee, said Muyeed.