Thursday, February 2, 2012

Padma bridge project NO graft

পদ্মা সেতু 

The Anticorruption Commission on Thursday said its investigation found no tangible evidence of corruption in the $2.9-billion Padma bridge project.

The chief of the antigraft watchdog, Golam Rahman, at a media briefing Thursday announced the end of the enquiry.

But, he said, a Canadian agency is investigating the corruption charges in the selection of consultant.

Canadian authorities on Sep 3 launched investigation into corruption charges against employees of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, one of the engineering firms bidding on the bridge project, after the World Bank's anti-graft unit referred its concerns about violations of Canadian law.

Chairman Rahman said the allegation that former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain took money to favour a firm in the preliminary consultant selection process was also found false.

The project to build Bangladesh's longest bridge ran into troubled waters after the global lending agency blocked funds in October last year claiming that there were corruption in river dredging, appointment of consultants and selection of pre-qualified contractors in the project.

On Oct 17 last year, following the government's order, ACC assigned its deputy director Jainul Abedin Shibli and assistant director Mirza Zahidul Alam to probe the global money lender's corruption allegations regarding preliminary selection and appointment of consultants and contractors.

Rahman on Thursday told the media, "The commission does not think that there has been any corruption in the preliminary selections of the project. So, the investigation will not go further."

The global lending agency is the biggest co-financier of the much-coveted project -- it was supposed to lend $1.2 billion to the $2.9-billion project.

The Malaysian government on Tuesday officially expressed its intent to invest in the construction of the bridge after prime minister Sheikh Hasina hinted at refusing the donor's money if it failed to prove the charges.

During the investigation, the ACC investigators interrogated a few people including Abul Hossain. Even though allegations were levelled against Abul Hossain, he and the Bangladesh government have so far denied the charges.

In an interview with last week, Abul Hossain said that the investigation will prove his innocence.

The Padma bridge at Mawa-Jajira was to be co-financed also by the Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The World Bank is also the coordinator of the four lending agencies.

The government signed agreements with World Bank for $1.2 billion loan, Asian Development Bank for $615 million, JICA for $400 million and IDB for $140 million. The government would put together rest of the fund.     


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