12:00 AM, August 26, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 26, 2012

Padma Bridge Loan Revival

Mashiur not going yet

The adviser denies graft allegation; Muhith says letter to WB ready, not sending for a 'hitch' in it

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Mashiur Rahman

Prime minister's Adviser Mashiur Rahman has denied any involvement in the alleged corruption in the Padma bridge project, and said the government has not yet asked him to resign in its efforts to revive the World Bank financing for the project.
Talking with The Daily Star over the phone yesterday, the PM's economic affairs adviser said if there were corruption allegations against him over the project, both the government and the WB could make those public.
Finance ministry officials said Mashiur's removal is the last hurdle for the government to convince the global lender to revive its $1.2 billion loan that it had cancelled in June. And it must be done by this week.
The WB gave a clear signal to the government that it would withdraw the loan cancellation if the government implemented its three conditions, including the removal of former communication minister Syed Abul Hossain and adviser Mashiur Rahman. The government has to provide the WB with documents about their removal.
The government has prepared a draft letter with the help of the WB's Dhaka office requesting the project's lead financier to withdraw its loan cancellation, said the officials.
“We have already prepared a draft letter. But there is a hitch. The letter will be sent when the hitch is gone,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith said yesterday without giving any details about “the hitch”.
In an interview with private TV station Channel i, Muhith said they had reached an understanding with the WB after prolonged talks, and said the WB might withdraw the loan cancellation.
However, the WB told the government that even if it revives its loan agreement, it would require at least six months to start the project's work. But the government did not agree to it, said Muhith.
The finance minister said if everything went smoothly, tenders will be invited afresh in October or November.
However, a finance ministry source said there was uncertainty about the resignation of the prime minister's economic affairs adviser.
Mashiur told The Daily Star yesterday, “I have no part to play in the construction or implementation of the Padma bridge project. So the question of my involvement in the alleged corruption does not arise.”
“If anyone makes any complaint to me, it is my responsibility as the project's integrity adviser to settle it. I have no scope for making money from the project.”
Asked whether he had knowledge of the WB's allegations against him, Mashiur said, “I don't know about this. The finance minister may know it if the WB has already informed him about this.”
In reply to a query whether his name was on the list of public officials the WB had recommended sending on leave, he said, “I have not seen the list. So I cannot say.”
On whether the government had asked him to step down, he said, “Nobody has told me anything about it.”
The co-financiers of the project -- Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency -- extended their loan effectuation date till August 30, meaning that the government has to reach an agreement with the WB within this month.
The WB in September last year suspended its promised $1.2 billion funding for the country's biggest infrastructure project over corruption allegations.
The global lender cancelled its loan agreement in June on the grounds that all its conditions had not been met.
The government started fresh talks with the WB early this month and they are now at the final stage. The government with the help of the WB's Dhaka office prepared a draft letter mentioning the government steps, said a finance ministry source.
The documents that have to be furnished with the letter include the gazette notification on the acceptance of Abul's resignation, terms of reference regarding the ACC probe into graft allegations over the project, the letter of acceptance on the resignation of the adviser concerned.

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