Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Planning ministry detects misuse of fund in Chittagong court building construction

  • Zafar Ahmed, Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2017-03-18 01:01:36 BdST

bdnews24

The Ministry of Planning has flagged up a plethora of irregularities and mismanagement of fund allocated for the construction of a 10-storey court building for the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Chittagong.

Despite increasing the funds by 200% for ten floors, the building seems not going up beyond six-floor levels, the ministry found during the latest investigation. A team from the ministry visited the site in December last year.

The ministry's Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) claims the building was constructed without following the ECNEC-approved design.

Department of Public Works is implementing the project of law ministry under which similar buildings are in the process in six other divisional cities.

IMED has indicated irregularities in other sites as well.

The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the project in 2009 to establish Chief Judicial Magistrate Court buildings in 64 districts. The project was supposed to be completed by 2014.

Initially, Tk 7.31 billion was earmarked to construct six floors on a foundation of seven floors in Chittagong. ECNEC ordered to build buildings in 27 districts and allotted lands in the rest 37. 

Later, Ministry of Public Works proposed to construct 10 floors on a foundation for 12 floors in the port city.

Following the proposal, ECNEC modified the project on Feb 8, 2011, and increased funds up to Tk 8.7 billion. In the revised plan, it decided to construct 34 buildings and allot lands in 30 districts.

On May 24, 2016, the cost was increased up to Tk 23.88 billion to construct 40 buildings and take land on lease in 22 districts.

In its probe report, IMED said Tk 400 million was allotted only for sanitary constructions, water and electricity supply in the Chittagong building.

Preferring anonymity, an official of IMED said: "Tk 2.4 billion more are being spent for constructing buildings at six divisional districts.

"This massive amount has been misappropriated," he told bdnews24.com.

IMED has recommended the penalty for anyone found guilty of concealing information and misappropriating the fund.

Project Director Engineer Md Jahid Hossain said the decision to construct six floors was taken by "a steering committee headed by public works minister" following "some complications in the constructing of the Chittagong building."

When asked why the plan for 10 floors was not implemented despite approval of ECNEC, he said: "I was not the project director then, I cannot comment on this."

The IMED report has quoted the contractor firm saying that the floors were constructed before the correction of the model in the ECNEC meeting.

IMED terms the claim as "fabricated" and claims the construction started two years after the ECNEC meeting which gave the nod to the plan for 10 floors.

The report states that an ECNEC meeting held in 2011 increased funds for constructing 10 floors on a foundation for 12 floors. The work order for the Chittagong Judicial Magistrate Court was passed on Apr 14, 2013.

Department of Public Works invited tenders in Dainik Azadi and Dainik Samakal on Oct 17, 2012, and on The Daily Star three days later. The advertisements mentioned building six floors.

On Mar 14, 2013, the deal was awarded to Jamal and Co and The Delta Engineers Consortium for Tk 210 million.    

IMED claims that project has been implemented concealing information and violating orders of ECNEC. "The implementing authority cannot deny the responsibility."

Five floors were found done, and one under construction during a visit paid a week earlier.

Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha inaugurated the incomplete building on Jan 19 this year.

Law practitioners have pointed out that the building does not provide enough space for work.

Only four benches have been set up in the newly constructed building whereas the Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court in Chittagong houses eight benches.

"We wanted a building that could well serve us until 2050, but this one has already turned out to be of no use," said Chittagong District Lawyers' Association former president Kofil Uddin Chowdhury. 

"I made the observation during the inauguration. No one seems to pay heed to this matter."