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Bangladesh - July 7, 2021

Who will pull the reins of project costs?

Increasing cost and duration has become a regular phenomenon

Golam Mostafa Jibon: Allegation has been intensified that the expenditure in the name of development is not being curbed anyway even after strict directives of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in this regard. Who will pull the reins of project costs back, many raised questions.
Increasing the cost and duration by leaps and bounds has become a regular phenomenon in context of the development projects in Bangladesh.
It has now become a culture that the project is not completed by the stipulated cost and time. The cost of digging 2.9 Km canal from Bahaddarhat Baripara in Chattogram city to Karnaphuli river has now increased to Tk 1,375 crore from Tk 326 crore.
The project, which was supposed to be completed in three years, has been going on for seven years. Now the duration of the project is going to increase for another three years.
It has been said that, the implementing agency has failed to acquire the land within the stipulated time for digging the canal due to litigation. This is the main reason for increasing the cost more than four times. Meanwhile, the Physical Infrastructure Department of the Planning Commission has been asked to review this unusual expenditure proposal and bring it down to a reasonable level.
According to the project proposal and information from the head of the physical infrastructure department, the excavation of 2.9 Km canal from Bahaddarhat Baripara to Karnaphuli river in Chattogram city was approved at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on June 24 in 2014 at a cost of Tk 326.85 crore. The project deadline was fixed on June 30 in 2017.
The width of the canal will be 65 feet. The purpose was to alleviate the city’s water-logging. This project was undertaken on the recommendation of Chattogram Drainage Master Plan made in 1995 for drainage of 2,264 hectare area of Drainage Area 7 and elimination of water-logging.
After that, on 11 July 2018, the cost of the project was increased by Tk 930 crore in one leap from ECNEC and Tk 1,256.15 crore was approved. The term was extended by three years to June 2020. But there is no sign of the project being completed. It was automatically extended by one more year till June 2021. Chattogram City Corporation demanded to increase the term and cost again as the project was not completed. It was proposed to increase the expenditure to Tk 1,374.86 crore and extend the term for another three years till June 2024. The three-year project is now running for 10 years.
Chattogram City Corporation’s chief engineer recently told a review meeting that the Chittagong Development Authority made a master plan in 1995 for the city. The main theme of the master plan was the development of drainage system and flood control. The master plan proposed rehabilitation of existing canals and digging of some new canals for rapid removal of rainwater. In the light of the recommendations of the master plan, it was proposed to construct a canal with a length of 2.9 Km and a width of 65 feet and a road of 20 feet width on both sides of the canal.
But due to delay in land acquisition process and increase in land price, the first amended proposal of the project was approved by ECNEC on July 11 in 2018. Due to the complexity of the lawsuit, the land acquisition was not completed on time. The second amendment of the project proposed to change in the rate schedule, design and extension of various parts and it completion deadline was extended to June 2024. The city corporation said, the land acquisition was not possible due to legal complications and various land surveys. Now cost in this sector has tripled. Due to the case, it was not possible to acquire the land in time, where 90 percent of the expenditure was resources in this sector. Initially the project had the resources of six bridges. Now two more bridges and a culvert need to be rebuilt. The amount and cost of work has increased as per the design obtained from the consulting survey.
According to the review, the cost of 5.8 Km road was Tk 8.93 crore, which is now estimated at around Tk 29.92 crore. The construction cost of 2.9 Km drains at Tk 9 crore now stands at Tk 36.46 crore against a 5.5 Km drains. The cost of 5.5 Km of retaining walls and stairs has now stood at Tk 92.90 crore instead of Tk 36 crore.
Instead of Tk 5.13 crore for the construction of 5.4 Km of footpaths, Tk 8.96 crore has been taken for 5.5 Km.
Regarding the increase in expenditure, the Chief Engineer informed the PEC that the expenditure was first determined as per the 2012 rate schedule. Now it has been proposed to spend by the 2019 rate schedule, which has led to increased costs. Besides, the design has been changed after being surveyed by a consultant.

The Department of Physical Infrastructure considers the proposal of Tk 41.5 crore for construction of eight bridges and a culvert as excessive. The cost of 2,516.62 decimals land acquisition for the project was at Tk 1,103.84 crore.
Liza Khawaja, deputy secretary of the Finance Department said that, the project has been running for seven years. It is currently extended the term for another three years. That means a project will continue for 10 years. Project amendment proposals should be avoided as much as possible. The Planning Commission questioned that, there is a canal re-excavation project at a cost of Tk 5,616 crore to alleviate water-logging in Chattogram city. So, PEC thinks that duality should be avoided. The cost of construction of bridges and culverts will have to be re-reviewed and logically constructed. It has been mentioned that the design of these should be included in the RDPP.

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