Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday asked the government officials to stop frequent foreign tours with public money.
Hasina also instructed the planning ministry officials to find alternatives to frequently revising government projects.
She issued the directive at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) meeting held at the National Economic Council conference room, said Planning Minister MA Mannan while briefing reporters after the meeting.
Prime minister's frustration over frequent foreign tours of government officials is quite justified. The Business Standard also ran a couple of reports in this regard earlier this month.
To learn coffee and almond farming for a project to be implemented in the Chattogram Hill Tracts, at least 10 government officials, with zero agriculture connection, had been selected to travel abroad for training, said a report of The Business Standard on October 2.
The Tk49.98 crore project, awaiting the approval Planning Commission, aims to facilitate the farming of the crops to eliminate poverty in the region.
The officials will travel to Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia or other countries for 15 days, in two phases, at the cost of Tk50 lakh, according to the proposal.
The selection of the officials for the training, instead of farmers, or at least officials related to the concerned field, has stirred controversy.
The government is set to spend more than Tk1.5 crore to train 24 public officials abroad for an irrigation project, even though the duties of the travelling officials do not include operating the project machinery, another report published on October 10 said.
Those who will operate the machinery will not be trained, even though the project proposal says the training is necessary for them.
The training is aimed at teaching modern irrigation techniques and the use of relevant technologies, but the irony is the trainees will not be directly involved in what they will be trained in.
The proposed expenditure of Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation's Mujibnagar Irrigation Development project is Tk257 crore. It will cost the government Tk1.68 crore to train the 24 officials – Tk7 lakh for each.
The officials will travel to countries such as Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.
Ecnec approves six projects
The Ecnec has approved six projects of Tk4831.12 crore on Tuesday; three of which are the revision of old projects with deadline extension, said Mannan.
Of the total cost, Tk1476.04 crore will come from the government fund, Tk3160.76 crore from foreign sources as project assistance, the minister explained.
For the construction of Chancery Complex in Saudi Arabia's Jeddah, Ecnec approved a project of Tk208.79 crore. While approving the project, Hasina asked the officials concerned to finish all the necessary tasks in the least number of tours possible, said Mannan.
The deadline for the Establishment of National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre project has been extended for the fifth time in the meeting. The three-year project was undertaken in 2010.
Project implementation delay, said Manna, is hurting the beneficiaries most.
The estimated cost of Tk138.14 crore of a Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS) project has risen to Tk194.32 crore. Undertaken in 2010, the project was scheduled to be completed by 2013.
The construction of a building under the project was delayed as there is a case pending with the court, said planning ministry officials.
Later the project was extended on different grounds, including project-related purchase and manpower recruitment. So, the DGHS wanted the extension until June next year.
But the deadline was extended for six more months at the meeting, said the officials.
Ecnec also allocated extra Tk235 crore for building multi-purpose cyclone centres and approved the first revision of the project. Approved by Ecnec in 2015, the Tk2,935 crore project has risen to Tk3,170 crore.
Another project – undertaken in March 2017 – to widen roads in Rangpur Division has been extended to June 2021 with approval of the first revision of the project. The project was scheduled to be completed by December this year.
With Ecnec's approval, the proejct cost of Tk598.1 crore will be raised to Tk993.9 crore. Plus, the project tenure extension by about 67 percent will increase the cost by 66 percent.
Ecnec also approved Darshana-Mujibnagar regional highway development project of Tk149.83 crore and Chashara-Khanpur-Hajiganj-Godnail-Adamjee EPZ road construction project of Tk113.52 crore.