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Transparency in spending climate funds

Shahiduzzaman Khan | Published: January 28, 2017 20:34:37 | Updated: October 23, 2017 08:24:45


Political consideration, nepotism and illegal underhand dealings allegedly contribute to the awarding of contracts for implementing the climate-change projects in most cases. Similarly, undue influence is said to play a significant role in budget allocations for initiating climate change resilience projects by local government institutions.

The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) cited six projects that involve dredging of water bodies and construction of a waste management plant, disaster resilient houses and drains. It, however, didn't disclose the names of the projects at a press conference held last week.

A number of ministers and powerful quarters influence the allocation of the project funds without considering the severity of risk and endangerment of an area. Due to lack of good governance, projects are allegedly approved for areas that are less endangered than others, the study report said.

The study was conducted on six of the 108 projects that involve Tk 3.53 billion. Financed by Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF), the projects are being implemented by local government institutions such as city corporations, district councils and municipalities.

The TIB took into account some indicators, including rationality, public participation, transparency, accountability, fair distribution and efficiency for conducting the study. The study was aimed at finding out the challenges in ensuring good governance in implementation of the projects and the consequences of lack of good governance.

All six projects were initiated without proper feasibility study and public participation. In each project, the authorities illegally charged people Tk 8,000 to Tk 10,000 for constructing disaster resilient houses. E-tender process was not followed in any of the projects. Moreover, in a bid to evade tax, the contractor in one of the projects was changed without following due process.

The authorities concerned didn't make public information on four of the six projects. Besides, construction of one of the projects was stalled as the authorities didn't pay compensation to the land owners. Lack of monitoring and evaluation by the higher authorities concerned is one of the major challenges in ensuring good governance in implementation of the projects, the study says.

In fact, transparency and accountability must be ensured to obtain global fund to mitigate and adapt to the threats of climate change. All need to ensure that there is participation in the accountability process, said the TIB.

The most worrying fact is that Bangladesh would not get funds as a climate change-affected nation unless it proves that it uses the fund responsibly for the victims of climate change. The accountability process should include all stakeholders including government, private sectors, civil society organisation along with directly-affected communities.

There is a need for bringing the climate related projects under mandatory audit requirement. Without such practise of public information disclosure, it will be difficult to get any future adaptation funds.

All said and done, there is a need for transparency and accountability on the part of developed countries to fully implement their commitment abiding by the principle that polluters pay climate finance to the affected countries as grant and not as loan. Use of digital technology should be a must for disclosure of climate finance-related information to ensure transparency and accountability of all stakeholders.

Analysts are of the opinion that transparency and accountability in spending climate funds would help the country attract foreign funds in future to combat climate change. The country has so far created a $300 million fund with its own money and a $125 million Climate Change Resilient Fund (BCCRF) with foreign money.

According to reports, at least three out of 83 government projects financed by BCCTF are plagued by gross anomalies, lack of planning and indications of resource misappropriation at implementation and project formulation stages. Relief and Rehabilitation Directorate undertook a Tk 245 million project under the BCCTF to build 2003 cyclone-resilient houses for the Aila-affected in Khulna and Satkhira. But the houses they built turned out to be low quality four-pillared sheds without walls and provisions for privacy, personal hygiene, and sewerage, and are exposed to storms, cold and sun.

Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) undertook a Tk 240 million project to build a cross dam connecting different Chars from Patuakhali to Bhola without environmental and social impact assessment. In the project proposal, the board failed to mention that they would build the dam through a reserve forest and cut 30,000 trees. As a result, the project was stalled in the face of objections from the forest department.

On the other hand, the forest department undertook a Tk 120 million afforestation project in coastal areas without the required free land and any coordination with the water board. All these are making the affected people's life even more vulnerable.

The relevant ministries which use the climate mitigation funds are responsible for preventing anomalies and lack of accountability in project implementation. The environment ministry releases climate funds through a lengthy and rigorous process involving a technical committee and trustee board.

Reports say the BWDB received the highest allocation of 28 per cent of the climate funds followed by the Forest Department and the Relief and Rehabilitation Directorate with 13 and 10.5 per cent respectively. But so far no project by any non-governmental organisation (NGO) got any allocation. Out of 5,000 NGO projects, only around 60 finally qualified for allocation recently.

Meantime, the United Nations (UN) has recently urged upon the rich nations to ramp up financial aid to help poor countries shore up their defences against climate change. Rich nations pledged back in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion per year from 2020 for climate aid to the developing world.

But the poor nations are insisting on a clear roadmap for reaching the goal, and on a bigger focus on money for climate adaptation, which entails building resilience against global warming impacts. So far, adaptation has received less than a fifth of climate finance made available.

The cost for developing countries of adaptation alone could range from $140 billion to $300 billion by 2030, and from $280 billion to $550 billion by 2050  -- up to five times higher than previously estimated, UN Environment Programme -- also known as UNEP -- said in a statement.

The Paris Agreement set an objective of limiting average global warming to two degrees celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by cutting planet-heating greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil, and gas.

Consequent upon this, developing nations need finance for switching away from fossil fuels to more renewable energies, as well as for adaptation, and for coping with climate change effects.

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