DCs to oversee dev projects at district level
A recent government directive authorising deputy commissioners to monitor and evaluate development projects at the district level has caused an uproar among officials of project implementing agencies.
The officials -- engineers and other professionals -- said the move would increase complexities and cause delays in the implementation of the projects.
They warned they will abstain from work if the directive is not withdrawn immediately. They also threatened a tougher agitation.
"This is not the right decision. Monitoring and evaluating development projects can't be done by a specific sector. We will protest against the decision in our own way."
Although the public administration ministry issued the directive at the request of the planning ministry's Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, IMED officials themselves are aggrieved.
They said the move would squeeze their authority over project evaluations.
Issuing the directive on January 18, the public admin ministry asked the DCs to open a wing under an additional deputy commissioner for monitoring and evaluating the projects, and send reports to the IMED.
The move came at a time when DCs, during their annual conference this year, proposed that they be given the power to oversee project implementation in their respective districts through creation of a separate wing.
Planning Minister MA Mannan, however, turned down the proposal at that time.
"We told them [DCs] that there was no need for it [separate committee]. They have the right to look after work in their respective areas," he told reporters on January 18. But the directive was issued the same day.
Irked, the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh, a national platform of engineers who play a key role in implementation of projects, has already asked its members not to follow the directive.
Terming the government decision "a conspiracy against the country's development", IEB has called a series of protest programmes, according to its statement.
Engineers will form human chains across the country today to press home their demand -- cancellation of the decision.
Krishibid Institution Bangladesh, a national professional organisation of agriculturists, also protested the directive. Its officials said the public administration ministry would have to take back the circular with the directive.
State Minister for Planning Shamsul Alam, however, does not see anything wrong with the directive. He argued that the DCs' involvement in the projects would ensure a better monitoring.
"The DCs are always associated with development activities in their respective areas. On the other hand, IMED does not have enough manpower in districts and upazilas to supervise such activities," he said.
He added that the DCs can monitor the work timely and properly as they stay at the sites of the projects. They can provide the ministry with adequate information on the exact status of the project implementation.
"I don't see any problem here. I think no organisation should be aggrieved at the government order," he told The Daily Star.
Asked, Senior Secretary KM Ali Azam at the public administration ministry, said, "This is not our decision. We have issued the circular at the IMED's request."
He said the circular was for an "interim period" until IMED establishes its office at every district. "The request came as a good number of projects are being implemented right now".
Every year, the government keeps aside huge funds for the Annual Development Programme (ADP) to implement different development projects.
ADP worth Tk 2,25,324 crore was approved for the ongoing fiscal year, for implementing around 1,500 projects.
However, poor implementation of projects, especially cost and time overrun, have become a major cause of concern lately, and the prime minister, on several occasions, has expressed discontent over the matter.
Different implementing agency like Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Railways, Public Works Department, and Local Government Engineering Department implement such projects.
The district administrations are also indirectly involved in the projects as land acquisition, a major component of any project, is handled by DC offices.
While asking the DCs to open the wing under an ADC, the public administration ministry in a letter also asked them to take help from other officials in monitoring and evaluating project works.
Officials of different project implementing agencies said the ministry took the decision "unilaterally" without consulting with any of them.
They said that as per the rules of business, the Cabinet Division is responsible for inter-ministry coordination and thus the public ministry has issued the circular going beyond its jurisdiction.
There are many projects, especially of RHD and BR, spanning over different districts. The directive raises confusions regarding to whom project evaluation reports should be submitted.
In case of RHD, an executive engineer is mainly responsible for executing projects in the respective district. There are superintendent engineers and additional chief engineers to supervise their work.
Also, there is a separate division for monitoring work within RHD, and several committees in ministries concerned are also engaged here.
So, monitoring and evaluation by DCs is unnecessary because it will kill time and create ambiguity, the officials said.
They said said project involves many technical issues but DCs may not have such technical knowhow, which may create complexities over project implementation.
Currently, DC offices are involved in land acquisition, but delay in land acquisition is one of the main reasons behind delay in project implementation, they said.
They said the DCs should rather focus on preventing the delays in land acquisition.
In this give situation, the services and welfare committee of Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh at meeting on February 3 asked the government to cancel the circular. It also asked its members not to provide any information to DCs.
IEB has more than 50,000 members and associate members.
Shahadat Hossain Shiblu, honorary general secretary of IEB, said an executive engineer at the district level is a fifth-grade government employee like a DC.
But the committee will be led by an ADC, a lower rank official, which is embarrassing for an EE.
Talking to The Daily Star, KIB President Prof Shahidur Rashid Bhuiyan and General Secretary Khairul Alam Prince said they were against the circular and would continue protesting it.
Shahidur Rashid Bhuiyan, who is the vice-chancellor of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, said, "This is not the right decision. Monitoring and evaluating development projects can't be done by a specific sector. We will protest against the decision in our own way."