He alleges few ill-equipped contractors get regular road construction jobs
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Thursday warned of stopping fund release if road construction quality failed to meet standard criteria.
“Ensure quality of construction works, otherwise I will stop releasing money,” said Kamal, asking authorities concerned not to propose any new projects without completing the ongoing ones.
Criticizing official concerned, the minister said the officials at the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) were busier with placing new projects at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meetings.
“The situation reached at such a point that majority projects being approved at ECNEC meeting are linked with road construction,” said Kamal.
“How will you supervise those if you initiate huge number of projects at a time?” he questioned, adding that the RHD had no focus on monitoring the construction quality at all.
Blaming the RHD officials, the finance minister said its officials were working as per their wishes.
He instructed the RHD to do the background checks of contractors before awarding them road construction contracts.
“Only 15-20 contractors are being regularly awarded all the projects of road construction, but they are not well-equipped,” said the minister, adding that lack of their capabilities resulted in poor construction, leading to shorter lifetime of road infrastructure.
The minister came up with the statements while addressing a seminar titled ‘Highway Lifetime: Challenges and Solutions,’ at the planning ministry in the capital.
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) Professor Shamsul Haque were present in the program, among others.
“The government yearly allocates about Tk25,000 crore on road construction but we do not get quality infrastructure at all,” said Kamal, adding that the authorities concerned required change in mindset for improving infrastructure quality.
He urged the RHD officials for measures to ensure compliance among its listed contractors. “If the constructed roads last less than projected lifetimes, the responsible builders should be penalized,” he said.
The finance minister said the number of the ongoing road construction projects were too much. The authorities should strengthen project supervision rather than alone coming up with new projects, he suggested.
“I cannot understand how these contractors (non-compliant) get licenses,” wondered the finance minister.
“Don’t misuse the government money,” he asked the RHD officials, adding that wasting resource was one kind of corruption.
“You are blaming on local unique soil and climate for damaging roads. But, you know that there are many countries in the world which are situated on the banks of seas. Their roads don’t get damaged easily like those in our country,” said the minister.
“In our country roads are typically constructed before they are made ready and sometimes without soil being leveled,” Kamal said.
“The roads in China last even for 50 years, then why ours’ ones are not even for 5 years,” he exclaimed.
On toll collection from roads and bridges, Kamal urged the RHD to launch the electronic toll collection system to reduce traffic jams at toll points.
Besides, he advised the authorities for using concrete instead of bitumen for construction purpose. “Bitumen is not long lasting in the climate of our country,” he said, adding that the China and some other developed countries were now using concrete in constructing their roads and highways.
He proposed for issuing licenses to electronic vehicles, calling the latest mode of transportation environment friendly.
Professor Shamsul Haque said the roads were being damaged for the lack of maintenance. “Constructors were building roads, but they do not provide maintenance services,” he added. Besides, overloaded vehicle movement was another reason for damage, added Haque.