Irregularities rule climate projects
A group of powerful men, including lawmakers, have meddled in four out of six climate projects under the Water Development Board to have the contracts awarded to their men, a Transparency International Bangladesh study has found.
The group involves a secretary, two local lawmakers, a central leader of the ruling Awami League and a relative of a former minister.
The names were not disclosed as part of the Berlin-based corruption watchdog's global policy.
The study report, launched at TIB's Dhanmondi office yesterday, said these powerful men recommended their men and influenced the WDB to approve the projects funded by Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund over the last few years.
“These anomalies massively exposed Bangladesh Water Development Board's [BWDB] lack of good governance mainly caused due to the absence of accountability at policymaking level and because of approval of projects in political consideration instead of on grounds of climate risk,” the report said.
In one instance, construction work of a 3.3 kilometre river embankment under a project was done poorly with damages clearly noticeable even when the project was underway.
Information for the survey was collected from 600 people, including project directors, WDB officials and employees, locals and contractors between March 2015 and July 2017.
The TIB did not disclose the surveyed areas but said the six projects were on drought, flood, cyclone and salinity.
The projects involving over Tk 74.14 crore were undertaken between 2011 and 2016 to build and rebuild river embankments, infrastructures, polders, protecting river banks and dredging rivers to reduce climate risks.
Locals blamed the contractors for poor work in two of the six projects and the issue even resulted in clashes between the locals and the contractors' men, said the report titled “Climate Finance and Governance in Project Implementation: The Case of Bangladesh Water Development Board”.
The Water Resources Ministry Task Force assessed quality and quantity of infrastructure materials of all the six projects. However, infrastructures in two projects were damaged within the project period, which put a question mark on the effectiveness of their assessment, it added.
Speaking at a press conference at its Dhanmondi office, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said the WDB was provided with 40 percent of the total Climate Change Trust Fund money. That is why the TIB did the study on its work.
The TIB expects to see that the government ensures accountability and transparency in using people's money while implementing such projects, he said, adding that how that money was being used needed to assessed.
In case of one project, the contractor sold some 10-15 roadside trees at an average price of Tk 28,000 and then embezzled the money. No one dared to protest as the contractor was a powerful individual.
None of the six projects were evaluated by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division nor audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General's office, as required by the project guidelines.
Survey findings show about 93 percent people had no clue as to where and how they could submit complaints regarding the projects.
One local office of the WDB, which implemented a climate project, had no designated information providing officer, which is mandatory under the Right to Information Act.
About 92 percent of the local community said they were not informed about the project activities, budget and other relevant information. Neither the WDB nor the contractors disclosed to the locals the timeline of the infrastructure work.
The report says no monitoring and evaluation were conducted by the WDB central monitoring and evaluation team in the six projects covered for the study.
Also, no community level problem identification meetings were held and no social evaluation took place in any of the project areas, the TIB said.
“Provisions for establishing grievance redress mechanism and independent third party monitoring and evaluation should be included in the existing legal framework,” the report said.