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Irregularities foil World Bank-funded clean air project

Published: December 09, 2019 12:44:41 | Updated: December 09, 2019 22:27:04


New reports of irregularities in the government’s Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) project, funded by the World Bank, are emerging.

After questioning irregularities in appointment of consultants, training, foreign tour and project cost, the parliamentary standing committee on the environment, forest and climate ministry has now found forgery in purchase of machines for the project.

The issue came up in the committee’s meeting when it discussed severe deterioration of Dhaka’s air quality recently.

The committee in July brought allegations of irregularities in the project and asked the ministry to send it to the planning ministry’s Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division or IMED for scrutiny.

Over Tk 2.21 billion of the around Tk 2.85 billion project has been spent. The expenditure includes more than Tk 330 million for appointment of the consultant.

The money was also spent allegedly on sectors not related to the project.

Launched in July 2009, the project ended in June this year.

In a decade, a total of 299 people travelled abroad in the name of training for the project.

Some of them made foreign trips 10 to 12 times while some others were not allegedly even linked to the project.

A number of the officials, who had gone abroad for training under the project, retired after returning home, leaving no scope of using what they had learnt.

The maintenance cost is higher than the price of the machines bought for the project, the parliamentary committee’s Chairman Saber Hossain Chowdhury said.

“We have information that there were incidents of forgery during the signing of these purchases at different times. For example, a consultant’s signature was on the paper, but that person was not even in Dhaka on the date of the signing,” he said.

The ruling Awami League MP questioned the construction of footbridges and passenger sheds at different places under the project.

“The city corporation was included in a part of the project, of which the main target and objective was to develop clean air and sustainable environment. But the way the project was implemented does not match the objective,” he said.

“I don’t see any justification in the link between air quality and footbridge or passenger shed. These were done by including the city corporation. It was said that the use of vehicles will decrease if people’s mobility increases. But it’s not logical to say this about footbridge.”

“The World Bank says many things, but it’s not that we must accept these. Why such things (footbridge, passenger shed) are in a project to improve air quality of Dhaka?” he asked.

The project will be investigated further through the parliamentary standing committee on the planning ministry, he added. Saber is also a member of the committee on the planning ministry.

Additional Secretary SM Munjurul Hannan Khan, the project’s director, could not be reached for comments. His phone was found switched off.

According to documents, five of the 10 cars bought at Tk 21.2 million under the project have broken down.

One of the objectives of the project was to innovate a technology to produce bricks without burning through the government’s Housing and Building Research Institute, but the goal has remained unachieved.

A total of 34 individuals and organisations worked as consultants of the project for Tk 334 million, bdnews24.com reports.

One of them, Chinese firm Xian Research and Design Institute Wall and Roof, did not complete two researches under the project.

The parliamentary committee questioned the spending of Tk 729.6 million on building construction and Tk 58.4 million on maintenance under the project.

The overall objective of the project was to catalyse the adoption of sustainable environmental initiatives in key polluting sectors - urban transport and brick making - with a focus to abate air pollution.

Generating benefits through introducing energy-efficient technology in brick sector and laying the foundation for introducing mass transit like Bus Rapid Transit in capital Dhaka was another goal of the project.

As many as 16 air quality monitoring centres were set up across the country, but it has not been decided how these will be run at the end of the project.

The parliamentary committee recommended issuing a health alert after the Air Quality Index reached the hazardous level in March, but the recommendation went unheeded.

“No decision has yet been taken on the matter. It’s unfortunate,” Saber said.

He questioned the effectiveness of the way CASE publishes the air quality data.

“What's the use of the air quality data if you get it a day later when we need today’s data to take decision. The US embassy provides live data. Then what will be the use of yesterday’s data?” he asked.

“And another thing - what steps are they taking after getting these data? We haven’t spoken about the issue. The ministry should have kept people informed about pollution.”

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