'Governance Challenges in the Implementation of the Infrastructure Development Project under Constituency-Based Block Allocation'
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has said that legislation, representing the people in the parliament, and ensuring government accountability are the core roles of lawmakers.
But when the lawmakers get directly involved with government procurement-related activities and other development projects, they fail to safeguard these core responsibilities, said TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
He was speaking at a virtual press conference held after the release of their research titled "Governance Challenges in the Implementation of the Infrastructure Development Project under Constituency-Based Block Allocation," on Wednesday.
The objective of the research was to review governance challenges in planning, implementation and monitoring process of schemes under the rural infrastructure development project.
As many as 628 schemes worth Tk298 crore under the Important Rural Infrastructure Development Project 1 (IRIDP 1) and IRIDP 2 were analyzed for this research, said a press release issued in this regard.
They found only infrastructure development schemes are implemented although there are other objectives of this project.
TIB in a press release said, most of the schemes are useful, however the quality of work of schemes is not at an expected level – due to mutual benefit of all stakeholders involved in scheme planning and implementation, and illegal financial transactions.
Although MPs of concerned areas have been in direct contact with the concerned to monitor the progress of work and resolve grievances, the transparency and accountability of the entire development process has been questioned as some of them have indulged in various irregularities for political influence and financial gain.
There is a lack of specific policy framework / strategy; inadequate institutional framework to make project details available to the public, including information on constituency-based schemes.
Lack of opportunity of common people to give direct feedback on schemes – from enlistment to implementation.
Absence of specific rules of conduct regarding the integrity and interests of MPs, including effective oversight and overall evaluation of projects, further encourages the institutionalization of irregularities and corruption and causes a waste of state resources.
The project is being used as a way for a section of MPs to exercise political power locally, to secure votes in elections, and to gain unethical economic benefits. There is also a lack of legal and procedural framework that ensures accountability of the people’s representatives.
IRIDP 1 covers from March 2010 to December 2014 when each of the 300 constituencies of the country received block allocation of Tk3 crore each per year for five years whereas under IRIDP 2, from July 2015 to June 2019, a total of 284 constituencies (except 16 seats in city corporation areas) were allocated Tk5 crore each year for four years.
During the study, for which data was collected from May to December last year and analysis of that data was completed in March this year, TIB randomly picked 50 parliamentary constituencies.
TIB also interviewed 341 key individuals including lawmakers, concerned government officials, local representatives, contractors, and media officials for the research and held 180 group discussions with beneficiaries and others.
Through the findings of the research, TIB observed that MPs are very interested in projects related to the development of roads, construction of bridges, and culverts in the country’s rural areas.
These schemes were taken with block allocations made to the MPs for implementing infrastructural development projects in the rural areas of Bangladesh, read the release.
According to the study, 68% of the schemes were implemented within the stipulated time given in the tender whereas 32% needed more time. Meanwhile, 74% of the schemes were completed fully and 21.5% partially.
Besides, only 14.5% of all schemes involved repair works, and of the unrepaired, 42% schemes were not in decent condition.
However, no complaints were lodged against 77.6%, mentioned the study adding, the reasons behind this were, complaints not being acknowledged, threats, and harassments while protesting or directly filing a complaint.
While if the contractor for the project is a relative or acquaintance or party worker of the concerned lawmaker, general people are less interested in filing any complaints out of fear, the study added.
TIB, based on the finding through this study, made a nine-point recommendation addressing the challenges of good governance when it comes to the implementation of the schemes powered by block allocations.
Their recommendations are as follows:
1. An impartial and comprehensive evaluation of the projects under block allocation for development of constituencies already implemented should be done. The weaknesses and opportunities should be detailed and this information should be used in the next project planning to increase effectiveness.
2. The legal framework or policy of the project should be specified, which will provide detailed instructions for the scheme selection process, prerequisite allocation by area and demand, and implementation, monitoring and evaluation process.
3. Feasibility of schemes based on geographical location and appropriateness must be done before planning and listing of schemes.
4. It is necessary to increase the representation of local people in relevant coordination committees of local government bodies to ensure people’s participation and reduce the political influence in the decision making process.
5. Information boards should be set up in areas where schemes are implemented. On the information board, details of the scheme, budget, deadline, names and contact numbers of the engineer and contractor etc. must be disclosed.
6. All types of information about this project (policy, list of seat-based schemes, feasibility study report, budget, details of progress of scheme implementation) must be published on a website and regularly updated.
7. Initiatives should be taken to plan and implement schemes directly consistent with the objective of increasing marketing facilities and accelerating rural employment, including providing assistance to increase production of agricultural and non-agricultural products.
8. In order to establish good governance, effective accountability system (Code of Conduct for MPs, disclosure of financial accounts including their activities, area-based public hearings for development projects implemented in their involvement) should be introduced to reduce the tendency and opportunities for corruption.
9. Continuous effective monitoring (community monitoring) may be introduced with local beneficiaries during the implementation of schemes.