Fear over getting benefits of ‘SUFAL’ project
Complexity in the WB lending process blamed
Golam Mostafa Jibon:Getting benefit from the Sustainable Forests and Livelihoods (SUFAL) Project being implemented under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Bangladesh has become almost uncertain due to multiple reasons including complexity in the World Bank’s (WB) lending process.
Due to the slow pace of implementation of the project, suspect has been created over getting of the desired output.
Meanwhile, allegation of various irregularities has been intensified over the project that hampering normal progress and making delay the implementation.
Such information has come up in the intensive monitoring report of the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) under the Planning Ministry. The IMED report said, it was 10 months late to finalize the loan agreement with the WB for the project. In addition, it has taken a lot of time during the determination of initial administrative and financial regulations of the project in FY 2018-19 to manage administrative approval of the project, appointment of the project director, approval of the Ministry of Finance and Bangladesh Bank to open the project accounts, maintain the conditions of loan effective date by WB, clearance from WB’s Regional Office in Chennai and client connection through online. Sources said, a lot of time has already been passed in the related works including opening. Blaming the lack of pace in the project, the IMED report said that, the work on amending the Financing Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the WB on the implementation of the construction work of the Department of Public Works (PWD) as per the DPP’s instructions has been delayed.
As a result, construction activities did not progress. Progress has been hampered as work on the project has not started as per planning and scheduled time.
The report further said that, the process of inviting tenders for 88 out of 162 procurement packages in the Sustainable Forest and Livelihoods Project under Development Project Proposal (DPP) has been completed. The process of inviting tenders for 25 packages is underway. The process of inviting tenders for 49 packages has not started yet. However, agreement of 37 packages has done. This has seen a very slow implementation of the project.
As a result, confusion has been created over achieving the goal of the project.
It is learned that, the government has undertaken the Sustainable Forests and Livelihoods project with the aim of improving the institutional capacity of the Forest Department, reducing the dependence of forest dependent people on forests by introducing cooperative forest management and increasing wildlife conservation and expanding greenery.
The five-year project started in 2018. The total cost was estimated at Tk 1,502.72 crore. However, after passing 60 percent of the project period, only Tk 234.82 crore has been spent in this purpose, which is 15.63 percent of the total project cost.
According to the IMED report, there were found some irregularities in the project.
PPA-2006 (Government Procurement Act) and PPR-2008 (Government Procurement Rules) to limit the specifications that were made for the purchase of goods as per DPP (Development Project Proposal) (GD-32) to one company only has been omitted. Tenders were invited on the newspapers only for five works among construction of 93 buildings and renovation of old buildings.
It was not possible to do the work of creating the garden for failing to seedlings in time. The process of selecting 40,000 beneficiaries under the project has not started yet.
Currently, the process of recruiting NGOs for the selection of beneficiaries is underway.
Citing a weak point of the project, the report said, the plan was not made as per the target. Besides, failure to call for tenders on time, delay in beneficiary selection, lack of proper monitoring and desired progress in forestation, change of project director three times in two and half years, untimely recruitment of manpower as per DPP and want of manpower at field level were the main weakness behind the failure. These have also been highlighted by the report as weak points of the project.
IMED Secretary Pradeep Ranjan Chakraborty said, “Several faults have come up in this project during the close scrutiny. However, we have to take necessary action in this regard.”
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