In 2017, the government took up a four-and-a-half-year project, worth over Tk 3,900 crore, to construct bridges in rural areas for boosting agricultural and non-agricultural production as well as sending the produce to the market easily.
Strangely, officials of Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) did not carry out any feasibility study on about 100 of 130 bridges to be built.
All the bridges were supposed to open to the public by June this year, but LGED officials now seek an extension of three years to complete the work. They have also proposed increasing the cost by Tk 2,530 crore.
There are, however, cases which are completely different.
Take for example, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) undertook an eight-and-a-half-year-project, involving around Tk 8,400 crore, in April 2013 to increase traffic volume on the Dhaka-Chattogram National Highway and establish uninterrupted road communications with the capital.
The project is almost over, and RHD officials have sought an extension of only three months. Besides, the project cost has been proposed to be lowered by Tk 1,464 crore.
Project officials attributed this success to proper feasibility study, management and efficient implementation.
This might indicate how time and public money can be saved if projects are handled properly, they said.
The Local Government Division is likely to place a proposal on the first revision of the "Construction of Important Bridges on Rural Roads" project and the RHD is set to place the first revision proposal of the "Kanchpur, Meghna and Gumti 2nd Bridge Construction and Existing Bridges Rehabilitation Project" before the next meeting of Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).
Proper feasibility study and efficient implementation are the two main factors that reduced the cost of the Kanchpur, Meghna and Gumti 2nd Bridge Construction and Existing Bridges Rehabilitation Project, Abu Saleh Md Nuruzzaman, project director, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He said their expenditure on consultancy fees also was less than the original allocation. "While rebuilding the old bridges, we did not require spending money on different things … contractors wanted to import construction materials like rods and stones, but we decided to go for local materials," Nuruzzaman explained how the project cost went down.
Primarily, the cost was set at Tk 8,486.94 crore, of which Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) was supposed to provide Tk 6,429.29 crore.
According to planning ministry documents, the cost has now come down to Tk 7,022.84 crore, and Jica would give Tk 5,713 crore.
Around 85 to 90 percent export and import activities of the country are done using the Chattogram port, but traffic congestion caused by narrow bridges often results in trouble for business.
The completion of the project, almost on time, appears to be a blessing for those businesses, said officials.
THE OPPOSITE CASE
The LGED undertook the Tk 3,926 crore project to build 130 bridges in rural areas to boost rural economy by creating commercial and employment opportunities which in turn will directly benefit the poor and reduce poverty.
The 130 bridges are supposed to be built in 94 upazilas of 40 districts.
The sites were picked on the basis of lists provided by the lawmakers.
The project officials have so far completed less than 20 percent of the work, said planning ministry officials. They said the LGED is now proposing increasing the project cost by 64 percent to Tk 6,457.19 crore.
Planning ministry officials said no feasibility studies were carried out for about 100 bridges. "So, when officials went to the sites to construct the bridges, they found discrepancies in terms of the height, width and approach roads of many of the bridges to be built," said a planning ministry official.
Documents prepared for the Ecnec meeting show that the project officials want more allocation for various reasons, including enforcement of new rate schedule and hike in land acquisition fees.
They also need to pay consultants and staffers for another three years, so the project cost would increase further, added the documents.