A government evaluation team has found irregularities in a Tk 9.56-billion-project designed to make the Mongla-Pakshi channel of the Padma River navigable.
The state-run Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) is working on improving the navigability towards Pakshi point of the Padma River from Mongla seaport needed to transport imported heavy machinery for the Rooppur nuclear power plant.
The Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Planning Commission has found the irregularities in the dredging work at the channel.
It has also identified the feasibility study done by the consulting firm CEGIS, as faulty. The work of the consultant is affecting the main purpose of the project, the evaluation report noted.
But the BIWTA has rejected the IMED evaluation report, saying no corruption or irregularities took place in the project work.
Project officials said the BIWTA has hired the contractor for the dredging work and the consulting firm for the feasibility study without open bidding.
Under the project, the BIWTA appointed CEGIS as the consultant through the "single source selection" method while selected the Bangladesh Navy directly as the contractor for dredging work.
The report said before going for the final deal, the CEGIS in its bidding proposal had offered fees, Tk 3.18 million higher than the official estimates on that account.
Later, the BIWTA settled the cost at Tk 97 million through negotiations with the consulting firm.
It has also found that the contractor has thrown the spoils after capital dredging on the open chars or on another side of the Padma River.
The evaluation team found inferior work at 14 segments of the river dredging work at the Padma River in 2018.
Since the spoils have not been kept in the secured places, those had returned to the riverbed within a few months after the dredging and affected the navigability of the river, the report said.
The BIWTA requires going for dredging (maintenance) again within a few months after the capital dredging at the Padma River, the report said.
According to the project provision, the spoils shall be discharged in a barrier or at the bamboo-fence to check their flow into the water again.
The CEGIS, in its study report, said that some 40 per cent silt might return after the capital dredging and for this it will require 55 per cent maintenance dredging further.
But the CEGIS report was later found faulty as the navigability has not improved after the dredging.
This has forced the BIWTA to go for 100 per cent maintenance dredging at the same channel of the river.
The IMED team also found that the river banks at some points eroded due to the unplanned dredging in the Padma River.
It has found unplanned and illegal dredging by bulk-head dredger for procuring sand from the river, which also caused the erosion of the river. It has also eroded the crop field on the riverside.
At the Paturia-Pakshi channel of the Padma River, the BIWTA completed some 6.4 million cubic metres of dredging within a short period of January-May.
Just within a few months from the completion of dredging, the river bed has been silted and some chars emerged, the report said.
The IMED team found that the project authority has appointed inadequate technical manpower for monitoring the dredging work.
People familiar with the situation said the BIWTA has also transferred its project directors twice during its two year-tenure.
The 3rd PD has now been working since December.
The authority has not involved local people during the implementation of the project, although it is government rules for executing any project, they said.
The BIWTA has not included any clause or item on "performance based contract" at the dredging work although it is a provision of the contract with the Bangladesh Navy, the report said.
When asked, chief engineer of the BIWTA Abdul Matin told the FE he can talk about the dredging projects of the BIWTA, except this one.
He suggested talking with the higher authority of the BIWTA.
The agency's operation and planning member and director of the project Delwar Hossain said the IMED's report is not correct.
"We have raised our reservations about the report before publishing it. We have informed the IMED that the investigation team did not go to the project site for completing their evaluation," he told the FE.
When asked about the anomalies, Mr Hossain said, "After the capital dredging last year, the river was silted again. They need maintenance dredging this year. And the dredging will be needed every year in future too."
"I took charge as PD of this project in December last year in addition to my membership role. I have already applied to the authority for withdrawing me from the charge of PD of the project," the BIWTA member said.