The Postal Department moves at a snail’s pace not only when it comes to delivering mails, but it behaves the same way when implementing its renovation work, leading to delay and cost escalation.
Its latest effort to reconstruct 79 post offices is an example.
It had planned to rebuild each of the post offices at a cost of about Tk61 lakh two years back, and the task was supposed to end in 2018.
And now, as only about one-third of the job could be completed, the Postal Department is seeking a 40 percent cost escalation, and if the cost increase is allowed, taxpayers will have to pay for the inefficiency of the department.
And even stranger is the fact that although the department could not complete the work of the 79 post offices, it now wants to extend the scope of the work and include 188 more post offices.
When the postal department is running on a loss and its service is on the wane, it is not clear how such expenditure is justified.
Always on a losing trajectory, the postal department recorded a loss of Tk462 crore in 2016-17 fiscal year alone. Mail handling by the department also decreased by 25 percent that year.
When reconstruction work of the post offices was taken up in 2017, it was estimated that some Tk48 crore would be spent in two years. But only one-third of the money could be used, raising questions about how efficient the project implementation department is.
And now the postal department is seeking a massive fund of Tk225 crore to complete the pending job and to include the new post offices as well. It believes it can do the task in two and a half years.
This is not the first time taxpayers had to cough up extra money for slow project implementation of the department.
In 2008, it took up a similar reconstruction project at a cost of Tk25 crore. The task, which was supposed to end in one and a half years, stretched to seven years and the cost escalated by 50 percent. In the meantime, the project got extensions three times.
As the projects limped, the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Planning Commission warned the Postal Department to be alert to such sluggishness.
However, such warnings seem to have fallen on deaf ears as reconstruction projects are still stretching beyond the deadline.
Project Director Md Golam Mostafa told The Business Standard that the expenditure has increased as the number of post offices to be renovated under the project has increased.
On cost hike per post office, he said changes in schedule rates and construction of waiting rooms and modern counters for clients have further caused the expenditures to increase.
He, however, did not explain why the construction could not be finished on time.
He also failed to explain why approvals are taken for smaller projects first only, to extend their mandate through revisions later.