The Sheikh Hasina Nakshi Palli Jamalpur project has seen no progress in two years and a half though its regular office management expenses continue.
Several months' rents have already become due at the project office at the Bangladesh Textile Mills Corporation building in the capital.
Besides, the Tk722 crore project, being implemented by the Bangladesh Handloom Board, does not have a full-time director.
The project was taken to provide accommodation and jobs for handicraft and weaving workers of Jamalpur and Sherpur.
The number of entrepreneurs making Nakshi kantha, a type of embroidered quilt, would have increased from 300 to 900 if the project could be finished by the schedule – June next year.
At a recent meeting of the project implementation committee presided over by Chairman of the handloom board Md Shah Alam, board member (planning and implementation) Gazi Md Rezaul Karim said an administrative proposal had been sent to the textiles and jute ministry to acquire 300 acres of land in Jamalpur Sadar and Melandah upazila under the project.
The ministry then decided to implement a revised version of the project by overhauling it.
Feasibility study at the eleventh hour
It is mandatory to conduct a feasibility study before formulating a project involving a minimum cost of Tk50 crore.
But no feasibility study was done for this project.
As part of overhauling the project, the ministry has asked officials to reduce its scope.
It has given directives to conduct a feasibility study to find out whether 300 acres of land will be required for the project.
Besides, it has asked to conduct an economic and financial study.
The National Academy for Planning and Development under the Planning Ministry has conducted a feasibility study.
Handloom board sources said the project proposal was being revised based on the feasibility study results.
The project was allocated Tk10 crore in this fiscal year's Annual Development Programme (ADP).
Apart from paying monthly rents of the Dhaka office, there have also been hospitality and other expenses at the project steering committee and the project implementation committee meetings.
The expense was met from the deputy project director's fund.
There have been recommendations to increase project allocations in order to meet expenses.
The project document mentions accommodations for 1,184 workers' families even though there are 300 workers in the project areas.
The project evaluation committee questioned this prior to approving the project and handloom board officials then said the extra accommodations had been reserved considering more workers would be hired in the future.
But Planning Commission officials said there is a land shortage in Bangladesh and arable land had been allocated for the project.
They asked project officials to consider this matter and bring down the amount of required land to a rational level.
The project proposed building a theme park, playground, floating restaurant, dockyard, guest house, and amphitheater.
But Planning Commission officials said these were not rational for a project aimed at creating jobs for poor quilt workers.
They also recommended bringing down costs of other proposed luxurious establishments.
Project approved hurriedly
Projects are usually approved from the ADP book's waiting list.
But this project was not on the list of unapproved projects in the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The planning commission later started the project's approval process after getting special approval from the planning minister.
The project was recommended for approval at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, subject to meeting 10 conditions.
Project officials' statements
Rezaul said the project had to be restructured due to land complexities, which delayed implementation.
Handloom board Chief (planning and implementation) Md Ayub Ali said after the project had been approved, a director was appointed who served for only seven months.
A deputy project director is currently overseeing the project, he said.
"The feasibility study was recommended as 300 acres of land seemed excessive. Now the government agency that did the study says 352 acres of land will be required," he said.
"They also say the project needs to be rationalised. Does that mean the project was initially approved with unreasonable allocation?"
If the project could be implemented by June next year, employment would have increased from three lakh to six lakh.
Also, quilt production would have increased from 10 lakh pieces to 30 lakh. Export income would have increased from Tk2 crore to Tk10 crore a year.
The project also aimed at increasing product quality through modern technology, improving workers' living standards by increasing their wages, and alleviating poverty.