The Jatiya Sangsad (JS) standing committee on the planning ministry is dissatisfied with poor monitoring of the projects by the government implementation agencies.The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), in a recent report, found that the government undertook 1,458 projects in the last fiscal year of which only 705 were monitored. This was less than 50 per cent.
In may be mentioned here that 53 ministry/departments are reported to have been implementing these projects. Out of these, only 39 of them informed the IMED about the various steps taken for improvement of the project implementation as per its recommendations. No reports are available on the rest 14 projects.
Dwelling on the report, the standing committee said the paper submitted to the IMED is a half-hearted one and contained nothing about project status and frequent change of time of project implementation. There is no complete report on any of the 705 projects, the standing committee found.
It is, however, necessary to know the project progress and its timely implementation and what action the planning ministry has taken against those ministries and departments which fail to implement those. The standing committee also raised questions about competence of the officials engaged for monitoring of project work.
There is a project evaluation committee against every project where IMED representatives are also included. The IMED is supposed to monitor the projects every three months and submit the progress reports.
As the country's project implementation is at a slow pace for a long time, the government is mulling digitisation of the project monitoring system. The process of digitisation, which is now at the final stage, is expected to ensure close monitoring of project activities and instant retrieval of updated data on ongoing projects, which, in turn, will enable officials to observe the latest project status at the end of a week and give directives accordingly.
The government is reportedly taking steps also to ensure online collection of project information and widen the scope of e-GP in public procurement to ensure transparency and accountability. An amount of Tk 1.0 billion has been proposed to be earmarked in the next fiscal for structural reforms in project design and execution stages. Besides, the government is working on formulating a project implementation manual and training programmes for project employees.
It has been found that project implementation remains at a very slow pace in the first few months of a fiscal year. The usual practice is that every year the ministries intensify their spending in the last two months after doing not much work for the rest of the year. If a large spending takes place at the end of a fiscal year, there is every possibility that a substantial amount of money is wasted as none can give proper attention to the quality of the implementation process. Besides, some misuse of money does also take place due to hurried spending.
Both the finance and planning ministries have reportedly pledged to gear up monitoring the development projects from the first month of the next fiscal after disappointing performances for years. The government wants to carry out frequent monitoring of the project activities. Presently, review of project-implementation progress takes place once in three months.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in its recent reports, observed that the government's project implementation is so slow that by the time it releases 20 per cent of a project's fund, half the project time elapses.
Delays in approving development and technical project proposals are common and directly contribute to delays in starting the work and the implementation. Apart from procedural constraints, there is a capacity problem in the planning cell of executing agencies and line ministries. Besides, the Planning Commission (PC) takes considerably long time to review project proposals. As a result, in many cases, more than 12 months are spent in the approval of the Development Project Proposal (DPP).
Slow implementation is not, however, a unique problem to Bangladesh only. This is the case with most of the developing economies around the globe. Lack of institutional capacity and other complexities, including the bureaucratic tangles, make the full and timely implementation of development programmes difficult.
Digitisation of land records was initiated in the country a decade ago. The people are yet to reap benefits of digitisation. The government has also failed to implement the digitisation process in the face of strong resistance by vested quarters in the country's land offices.
In the circumstances, there are doubts about the success of the digitisation programme of the project implementation process in the public sector. Widespread corruption in every tier of the implementation process may pose as a stumbling block to digitisation.