Planning Minister MA Mannan yesterday directed two secretaries to sit with officials concerned to pinpoint the actual reasons behind a decline in foreign aid utilisation last fiscal year despite a huge amount of it being available.
The directive came at a special meeting with secretaries and development wing chiefs of all ministries and divisions on various inconsistencies in project formulation and review of implementation of the annual development programme (ADP).
The two secretaries are from the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division and Economic Relations Division.
During the meeting at the National Economic Council, senior planning ministry officials criticised the line ministry officials for the low utilisation, said sources.
Foreign aid utilisation in the ADP dropped by 8.14 percent over the first four months of the current fiscal year although the government had targeted an ambitious amount.
Between July and October, some Tk 7,637 crore was utilised whereas it was Tk 8,360 crore in the corresponding period last fiscal year.
The government has targeted to spend Tk 71,800 crore or over $8 billion from the foreign funds for ADP implementation this fiscal year. Foreign aid in the pipeline has surged to a record $48.11 billion as of July 1.
Regarding the low utilisation, Mannan told reporters that the secretaries had informed of some practical problems existing on Bangladesh’s part and that of the lenders.
He also said, in some cases the officials of the implementing entities lack negotiation skills, for which foreign funds cannot be disbursed on time.
The minister also directed the secretaries not to incorporate any block allocation for purchasing any item such as pillows, bed covers and cars. All breakdowns should be mentioned with respect to market prices in the project documents, he said.
Mannan said the directive was to prevent corruption and irregularities in the pretext of block allocations, which contain no specific mention for purchase of particular items. He also asked the officials not to include unnecessary allocations for foreign trips, saying that there was no logic in participating in a daylong seminar undertaking a 22-hour air travel.
Only officials having some form of connection to the seminar topic or study will go on foreign trips spending project allocations, he observed.