Project for MPs to please voters ahead of polls

The government is set to launch a special project purportedly aimed at pleasing voters ahead of upcoming national polls slated to be held early 2019.

Under the project, the lawmakers will be given Tk 30 million each to spend within two years in the name of constructing public toilets and tube-wells their election constituencies.

The local government division sent the proposal for the ‘Special project for water supply and sanitation to 300 constituencies’, worth over Tk 9 billion, to the planning commission for approval. The funds will be provided from the government exchequer. The evaluation committee last month held a meeting on the proposed project. The proposed project will be placed to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) for approval.

According to the planning commission, members of parliament (MP) will instruct the Department of Public Health Engineering to set up tube-wells and toilets in the designated places of their respective constituencies.

The tenure of the current government is to expire in January 2019, and the next election is to be arranged before that.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, local government expert Tofail Ahmed said it is an election-related project, initiated to financially support the MPs for election purposes. There is no reason to take up such a project as there is a department to set up necessary toilets and tube-wells. Through this project, scope is being created for the local influential people to pilfer money from the project.

The government took up such projects earlier. Each MP was allocated funds to construct roads in their respective localities. In 2010, a project titled ‘rural infrastructure development project on priority basis’ was taken at a cost of about Tk 47 billion. Through the project, 279 MPs got an allocation of 150 million each in next five years. Every year, an MP got Tk 30 million on an average. The second phase started after the project had ended in 2015. The tenure of second phase is four years, which will end in June 2019. In the second phase, an MP annually gets an allocation of Tk 50 million for constructing roads. Each MP will get Tk 200 million in four years.

According to the project proposal sent to the planning commission, the tenure of the project will be between October 2016 and June 2019. Meanwhile, one year has elapsed.  If the project is approved, 132,892 deep and shallow tube-wells have to be set up.

Experts, however, said there are health risks including arsenic in shallow tube-wells. Country director of Water Aid Khairul Islam told Prothom Alo that there is health risk in certain areas.

He suggested that health risks be taken into consideration when setting up deep and shallow tube-wells.

According to the project proposal, the MPs will each get the opportunity to set up around 450 tube-wells on average in their constituencies.

The cost of installing a tube-well has been fixed at Tk 25,000 to Tk, 90,000, depending on its kind.

Under the project, the MPs will also get the chance to build a public toilet in their respective constituencies and the cost of toilets has been set at Tk 1.5 million.

Besides, a total of 4,719 rainwater harvesting systems will be set up under this project.

Foreign Trips, Cars

A number of vehicles will be purchased for the project. A budget of Tk 20 million has been allocated for buying an SUV and two pick-ups. And Tk 9 million will be allocated to purchase the SUV.

Moreover, officials of the project will be given the opportunity to travel abroad.

A budget of Tk 2 million has been kept for the officials to travel abroad for experience in setting up tube-wells and public toilets.

Moreover, a budget of Tk 160 million will be kept for training, workshops, supplies, services, and other sectors.

Politically influential locals will be allowed to work as contractors under the project.

The project proposes to distribute the work in 960 packages.

According to the project concerned, the work of setting up tube-well, rainwater harvesting system, and public toilet will be provided to separate contractor firms.

Former finance adviser to the caretaker government AB Mirza Azizul Islam thinks going abroad to learn about setting up tube-well is unnecessary.

It is like a bonus for the government officials, he said.

According to AB Mirza Azizul Islam, 960 packages for a single project are needless.

The quality of the work will be below par as there are so many contractors. One contractor should be engaged for an upazila, said AB Mirza Azizul Islam.

However, additional chief engineer (planning), AKM Ibrahim, of the Department of Public Health Engineering told Prothom Alo that the project will create a source of conserving drinking water which has a great demand across the country.

Local government expert Tofail Ahmed said that all the projects are now being taken according to MPs’ wishes, superseding the local government.

But the MPs have no position in the local government. They are mainly lawmakers, he added.

Source: Prothom Alo

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