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The Financial Express

Electrifying rural Bangladesh: REB's goal goes haywire

FHM HUMAYAN KABIR | Published: January 26, 2020 09:45:51 | Updated: January 26, 2020 19:20:38


Picture used for illustrative purpose only Picture used for illustrative purpose only

The state-run Rural Electrification Board, or REB, has failed to ensure full electricity coverage in the countryside during the last three years, officials said on Saturday.

This has prompted the company to seek another two years to reach the goal.

While a total of 361 upazilas have come under the full electrification network, 100 per cent have yet to be covered, according to the REB.

In January 2017, the government had provided Tk 167.56 billion to the board under two separate projects for bringing rural Bangladesh under electrification.

But the REB has so far completed less than half of the work under the two projects.

The duration of the projects ended in December 2019.

A senior board official said they had sought the revision of the projects seeking higher funds and two more years for completing the job.

In the revised proposals, the REB has sought 23.58 per cent higher fund to Tk 83.75 billion for expanding distribution network in Rajshahi, Khulna, Rangpur and Barisal divisions and Tk 83.81 billion for the same in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet and Mymensingh divisions, a 17.50 per cent hike.

The REB official defended the revision, saying it needs to expand the scope for work in some components for both projects.

According to the REB's revised proposal, it has brought changes in the design of the projects as it has increased the distribution line installation work, the number of sub-stations and some other electrical equipment.

Since the designs of both projects have been changed, it will require some more funds and time for executing the projects, said a REB official.

The REB has driven up the cost for the purchase of 27 motor vehicles by Tk 11.61 million to Tk 8.63 billion, for hiring the consultants by Tk 133.29 million to Tk 958.35 million; and for constructing office and residential buildings by Tk 531 million to Tk 2.12 billion compared with the original cost for Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet and Mymensingh divisions.

Also, the electrification authority has increased the cost for procuring 27 vehicles by Tk 11.61 million to Tk 8.63 billion, for example, in case of the project in Rajshahi, Khulna, Rangpur and Barisal divisions.

The REB official said that it would be able to complete 100 per cent electricity coverage in rural Bangladesh under the two projects by December 2021.

Meanwhile, the commission has expressed reservations about the alterations in the design towards the end of the project implementation period.

It also expressed its dissatisfaction over the costs escalation.

A commission official said the REB's proposed purchase of 54 vehicles and raising the consultancy service costs are not essential for the two projects as the board has logistics and expertise enough to do the job.

kabirhumayan10@gmail.com

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