The land and railway ministries have got their basics wrong in terms of handling important development projects. The least said about the projects' phase-wise implementation as per the original development project proformas (DPPs) the better. For it is like chasing a mirage!
That is the overall impression one gets from two reports appearing in this paper on last Saturday reflecting arbitrary handling of projects topped up by a crude novelty as though taking us for fools! The first one is based on certain findings by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), and the second one is the concerned JS body's indictment on Bangladesh Railway (BR).
The IMED, known to be a rather low profile division of the Planning Ministry has made two forceful observations. Having evaluated nine on-going projects of the Land Ministry, it noted that 'projects are undertaken and their costs estimated without making proper studies.' Already, time and cost overruns are in evidence 'leading to waste of public funds'. It has been observed.
The IMED has rightly focused on the needs for appointment of full-time Project Directors (PDs) for important projects, doing away with transfer of PDs and keeping them from going on foreign trips. They are supposed to be implementing projects within a time-frame and not be wanderers. To maintain time-line, consistency and quality of implementation, it is important to stick with a single PD. A new PD may mean upsetting the rhythm of work. Besides, it may encourage passing the buck on to a predecessor. In fact, it does not help auditing.
There used to be a time when development journalists joined experts to voice a demand for delegation of authority to PDs. Now the focus is on the need for a robust sense of responsibility on the part of the project directors.
It has now come to such a pass that the IMED has recommended action against officials involved in undertaking foreign trips violating the development project proformas (DPP)
It is worth mentioning, though that an internal mechanism such as the IMED made the evaluation 'as the EU found irregularities while conducting an audit of a project funded by them between November 2012 and October 2013.
Yes, whilst implementing land management modernization projects by using different pieces of software, the IMED suggested they use uniform and standard software both centrally as well as at field level.
The Bangladesh Railway (BR) has taken opacity or an experimental novelty a step further, indulging in quite an unpoetic liberty -- with its remit. On demand by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Railways, BR has submitted a list of 53 projects involving about TK 990 billion under implementation by 26 project directors.
It is mind-boggling to know that five PDs were implementing as many as 24 projects. This is tantamount to violating the directives of the Prime Minister, the Planning Commission as well as the government rules.
One could not agree more with the chairman of the standing committee who reportedly reprimanded the BR authority asking whether the PDs were supermen. Or, else how could they take on the responsibility of so many projects?
Hopefully, one PD would be put in charge of a single project, and depending on the size of the project, at best two may be allowed to a PD.
In the meanwhile, whose heads should roll for the time lost through an absolutely unnecessary tangle?