A few government agencies are found involved in various sorts of whimsical acts as far as the execution of development projects is concerned.
Instances of recurrent rise in cost and extension of project execution time are many. Lately, the number of such projects, particularly the major ones, has gone up.
But what is happening lately to a project, titled, South-Western Gas Distribution Network is, possibly, an unprecedented instance in the history of development project execution in this country.
The relevant authorities, according to a newspaper report, has decided to abandon the project mentioned above after spending funds worth about Tk 4.0 billion (400 crore) on it.
The project has two components -- laying of both transmission and distribution lines in the project area. Equipment and pipes have been procured and land acquired under the project having an estimated expenditure of Tk 5.6 billion. The time for execution of project was two years, starting from January o1, 2010. The basic objective of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded project was to make available gas to residential houses, industries and commercial units in the country's south-western region.
Five years after the project execution deadline, the energy and mineral resources division in a letter issued on December 19 last asked the Sundarban Gas Company Ltd, the project execution agency, to initiate necessary measures for declaring the project abandoned. The reason cited for abandoning the project was the unsatisfactory progress in its execution.
The letter also mentioned that if it was found necessary to provide gas to power plants and industries in the project areas, a fresh development project proposal (DPP) could be initiated later. Thus, one obvious question would surely agitate one's mind: did the relevant agency spend nearly Tk 4.0 billion on a project taken up without doing a proper feasibility study? This is very much unlikely. If not the government, the ADB would not make available fund to any project that has been taken up without doing necessary feasibility studies.
The latest developments involving the project in question only demonstrate the relevant policymakers' whimsical behaviour that has led to wastage of a large amount of money. Besides, scrapping of the project would also bring an end to the expectation of the people of Khulna region of having piped gas supply.
The real reason behind abandoning the gas network project could be one that the government is unwilling to divulge. The project was conceived in 2006 when the gas shortage was not that acute. These days the consumers of different types in places even closer to major gas fields are not getting enough gas supply. The authorities might have found that it would not be possible to supply gas to the prospective consumers after completion of the project.
The money already spent on the project, reportedly, includes ADB funding worth Tk 2.5 billion. The taxpayers would have to repay the loan money that has also gone down the drain.
It has become more of a norm for the public sector agencies to waste development funds through hiking project costs and causing deliberate delays in project execution. The policymakers, it seems, are not that concerned about such errant agencies. That is really a very worrying aspect of the country's development administration.