Despite controversies dogging the Padma bridge project, Communications Minister Obaidul Quader says he is still hopeful of implementing Bangladesh’s largest infrastructure project so far.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, the minister said the ‘light of the project was still on’.
One of the election pledges of the ruling Awami League-led coalition was to bridge the mighty Padma. However, the World Bank has put on hold its promised funding, saying that was only possible once the allegations of corruption have been properly investigated.
After the Anti-Corruption Commission filed law suits against several high-ranking government officials over an alleged conspieacy ‘to exchange bribes’, Finance Minister AMA Muhith had said that outstanding issues with the Washington-based global lender may soon be resolved.
The government removed then Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain — though the ACC did not sue him — to meet with one of the World Bank’s conditions. Quader was then given charge of the ministry.
Bangladesh’s anti-graft watchdog has said it had unearthed evidences of a ‘conspiracy to exchange bribes’ to appoint Canadian firm SNC Lavalin as the project’s consultant.
On Dec 17, the ACC sued seven people including former Bridges Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan as the key accused for their association with the plot.
A day later, the World Bank in a statement said, it would first review the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the ACC and then take a final call on whether or not to fund the project.
Two days later the corruption watchdog ordered the arrest of the accused.
The ACC said they had already forwarded a copy of the case detail to the World Bank’s Washington and Dhaka offices.
The external panel, headed by Luis Moreno Ocampo, left Dhaka on Dec 5 after it failed to reach a consensus with the ACC on finalising the names of the accused.
The anti-graft body had interrogated former minister Hossain and former junior Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Chowdhury during the visit of the World Bank panel. The ACC said they did not charge the two as no definite evidence against them was found.
The global lender suspended its pledged $1.2 billion fund in September last year following allegations of bribery exchange against two of SNC Lavalin officials for securing the project’s consultancy.
However, the lender returned soon after as the government managed to successfully strike a deal with it. Removing Hossain, sending Prime Minister’s Advisor Moshiur Rahman and former Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan to forced leave were some of the steps the government had taken.
Source: Bd News24