We share the planning ministry's frustration over repeated modifications in projects, long delays, increased costs, failure to conduct proper feasibility tests and flouting of rules and regulations of high-ups, among other long-standing problems that hinder the efficient implementation of development schemes. At a meeting of secretaries from all ministries and divisions, concerns were also raised about people directing as many as eight or nine projects at a time, even though there are rules stating that one person cannot be the director for multiple projects. Directors are absent from project sites and officials design the project without testing its feasibility, as a result of which costs increase and there is lag in implementation. Even the Planning Minister MA Mannan admitted that rules get "ignored on some occasions" while Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam reminded the secretaries that there are provisions for punishment if rules and regulations are not followed.
Cost escalations, modification of components and time extensions of development projects have, unfortunately, become a norm, and while we appreciate the planning ministry's candour and concern in this regard, we can't help but wonder what steps, if any, it has taken over the years to ensure that rules and project deadlines are followed and that corruption is put in check from the design to the implementation phases. Despite repeated instances of corruption, inefficiency and a lack of foresight on the part of those directing and designing the projects, no one has been held responsible for the exponential increase in costs or the unacceptable delays in implementation, for which ordinary citizens, i.e. taxpayers, have to suffer. We were encouraged by the planning minister last year when he announced that no project would be revised more than twice and that implementation agencies would have to explain any delay, but it remains unclear if, and to what extent, that announcement was realised.
A working paper by the planning ministry stated that it approved 18 amended projects worth Tk 51,113 crore under nine ministries in June and July this year, but that on average, the cost of these projects increased by 34.86 percent—in some cases, the cost increased by 100 percent. This is unacceptable. We urge the concerned ministries, particularly the planning ministry, to take urgent and exacting steps to rectify the long-standing issues impeding the timely and cost-effective implementation of development projects.