Expired Development Projects: Deadline missed even when asking for time
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) is annoyed with a good few project authorities for breaking protocol for applying for extensions -- a practice that is hamstringing the appraisal process.
As is practice, the project authorities are supposed to apply for an extension to the IMED, the government agency tasked with monitoring and evaluating development projects, three months before the expiry of the tenure.
In the three months, the IMED officials would visit the site to get first-hand information and scrutinise all related matters before giving the go-ahead to the extension proposal, said Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, the division's secretary.
Of the 1,426 projects ongoing, the deadline of at least 678 had expired by June.
More than 300 projects sought more time. Save for a handful of them, most of the project authorities did not apply on time, according to an IMED document.
Although the tenure of the projects was until June 2021, some proposals were sent in late June or even in July, which is inconsistent with the planning discipline, it added.
"Many project authorities are not following the procedure," Chakraborty told The Daily Star yesterday.
As a result, it has become difficult for the division to take prudent decisions, he said.
The matter comes to the fore at a time when time and cost escalation of development projects have become a major concern, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressing discontent over the delays on several occasions.
Every year, the government is allocating huge sums for the projects. For instance, even amid the pandemic, the government has allocated a 14 percent higher amount for the annual development programme this fiscal year: Tk 225,324 crore.
But the rate of the projects' progress seems diametrically different from the rate at which the allocations are being raised every year.
The absence of proper feasibility studies and technical designs, delay in land acquisition and managing funds, lack of institutional capacity to deal with so many projects, lengthy tendering process, irregularities and corruption are often blamed by experts for time and cost overrun.
Adding to the laundry list of factors causing delays is the global coronavirus pandemic.
The issue of tardiness in applying for extension was taken up at the monthly meeting of the IMED on July 12, where it was decided that a list would be made of the projects whose extension application did not arrive on time.
A letter will be sent to the respective ministries drawing attention to the matter, shows the meeting minutes. The division has already sent a letter to a ministry.
The Daily Star spoke with a host of officials to find the reasons for the delay in sending in the extension proposals.
They cited a dearth of sincerity and urgency on the project authorities' part as well as a deficiency in competency for the delay. The global coronavirus pandemic was another factor that held up the applications.
The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) and the Bangladesh Railways accounted for the lion's share of time extension proposals last year: about 100.
RHD Chief Engineer Abdus Sabur said they have sought time extension for about 80 projects for a host of reasons, including a lack of funding for some and delays in land acquisition.
Asked about the delay in submitting the time extension proposals, he said there is a long process before the proposal is submitted to the IMED.
The project authority first submits the proposal to the agency concerned, and the agency, after necessary scrutiny, sends the proposal to the ministry concerned, which, after the necessary scrutiny, forwards it to the planning commission.
"So, this lengthy process is causing delay," he told The Daily Star yesterday.