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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Mere warning will not do if the corrupt ones remain unabated

MEDIA report said that the government has taken a move to rein in the soaring cost of development projects and the Planning Minister is going to hold a meeting with Secretaries of the Development Ministries and Planning Commission officials to find out ways how to plug corruption and misuse of development funds. The meeting was arranged following media report against soaring corruption with development funds which has now become inbuilt in our planning process.    
Disclosure said that the meeting is likely to issue a warning to the Development Ministries and agencies about the soaring wrong-doings. We would only ask whether such warning alone would work; why the Minister does not say wrong-doers would be punished. He lacks the courage. Stealing of project funds is only eating the big part of the country's development fund which at many places has become merged with party fund with a thin margin. Many big projects are facing cost and time over-run and planning officials are routinely asking for revised budget for them at highly elevated cost.
We would say when the government is gauging free flow of information, where rule of law is missing and transparency and accountability are lacking plugging corruption and money laundering will not be possible. It requires transparency and corrupt government leaders accountable in the first place. Because they are the first destroying the system. The government has failed to punish the launderers of public banks and the Minister's move can't fool the people.
Unsolicited project contract, unnecessary foreign trips by government functionaries, high cost construction materials which are many times above market price and additional cost for consultants are some ways dishonest officials are using to steal project funds. The roots run beyond the country. Recently proposals were made to raise project cost by 39 per cent for north-western corridor high-way. Consultant fees will be enhanced by Tk 565 crore.  We would like to say such bizarre misuse of planning system and development fund will not go just issuing warning.
We have a Tk 2.05 trillion annual development programme this year and only a slight misuse will be huge money in real term. We would ask the government to identify major corruption in mega projects first and start punishing money launderers.