The Financial Express

Streamlining ADP implementation

| Updated: October 22, 2017 01:23:39

Streamlining ADP implementation
The performance of the annual development programme (ADP) in the current fiscal (2015-16) is the worst in the last five years. During July-February period, hardly 34 per cent of the total ADP outlay was spent in the first eight months of the current fiscal. The size of the ADP for the current year is Tk 1 trillion out of which only Tk. 346.34 billion have been spent. This is shocking and alarming particularly when the government is determined to see Bangladesh emerging a middle-income country by 2021. Even by a liberal estimate, the performance will not exceed 60 per cent when the current fiscal will be over. The experts have attributed this failure to factors like lack of capacity of the concerned authorities. 
Finance Minister AMA Muhith has earned a distinction of presentating ever-increasing budgets. But a question has arisen if the government has done enough groundwork for proper and timely spending of the ADP fund. Did the bureaucracy respond to the need of capacity building in view of the mega budgets? Bangladesh has inherited and added to it a top-heavy administration. Hardly such a large number of divisions/ministries is to be found in similar countries as those of Bangladesh. The Road Division under the Ministry of Communication has been split into two, viz, road division and bridges division. The bridges division is one of the biggest recipients of ADP funds and a worst performer. 
The Railway Ministry is also a big recipient and a non-performer. Globally, it is acclaimed that the railway is a comfortable and comparatively safe mode of transport. But for Bangladesh Railway, it is neither safe nor comfortable. It is not difficult to find the cause for this dismal performance of the railway. From Pakistan period, there existed a corporation for road transport, two autonomous bodies for waterways viz Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) for maintaining navigational routes and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) for maintaining and operating ferries and inland ships. There is also a shipping corporation for ocean-going vessels. It is needless to say that there was also a corporation for airways. Earlier, the railway was under the management of a board and there was also an advisory board consisting of both officials and employees. 
A separate budget for the railways was used to be placed in the legislative assembly but after liberation and particularly after the killing of Bangabandhu, the railway became the victim of conspiracies of shenanigan road transport owners and labour leaders and transport businessmen. The separate budget for the railway was abolished. However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has re-introduced a separate railway ministry. But still the dark clouds overshadow the sky. From the highest state level it was assured that the railway would be converted into a corporate body and the list of pending projects was mentioned in the budget book of 2014-2015 fiscal. But that list was not seen in the budget book of 2015-16 and it seems that the issue has been left to the backyard. 
Before giving any suggestion of timely implementation of ADP projects, the issue of the unspent amount of the current fiscal needs to be discussed first. Always in the last quarter of the fiscal there would be unusual movement and agility for completing the incomplete projects. All rules relating to tenders and other related jobs are allegedly violated and money is shown 'spent'. 
The following measures may be considered for effective performance of the ADP projects. A quarterly meeting should be held under the chairmanship of the Minister of Finance and the Planning Minister may act as co-chairman. All concerned departments and the line Ministries will have to attend with holistic approach. A report should be prepared showing progress and also the impediments thereof. This report should be made public. In that case, apart from the government agencies, the civil societies will also be able to make suitable suggestions. Being appraised early, the government will be able to re-allocate funds if necessary. After all, it is the desire of the government, particularly a democratic one, to spend public money properly. There may be a half- yearly discussion over the ADP. There may also be a short session of the parliament on this. 
Finally, there must be an end of the culture of impunity. It has never been heard that any concerned official for failure or delay in the implementation of a project has  been punished or reprimanded. A few years back, a donor fund was returned as it could not be drawn at the time of the June final because the signing authority was out of the country. It is not known whether any action was taken or not. Since the news item appeared at the print media, there should have been a press release regarding the action taken. 
Meanwhile, the ADP has been slashed to Tk 930 billion from Tk 1,000 billion. Will this slashed amount be properly utilised?

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