Many projects but sluggish progress in housing ministry

The Department of Public Works initiated a project in September 2018 to construct residential apartments in place of 36 abandoned houses in Chattogram.

The project, worth an estimated Tk 11.31 billion, was slated to be completed in June 2021. But only one percent of the infrastructural work has been completed until now, according to the Ministry of Housing and Public Works.

Under the project, eight packages have floated tender for the construction of 35 houses while 6 packages signed contracts for 28 buildings. Two others packages have a case filed against them while the rest have only made progress by way of paper work.

The PWD took on a project in March 2019 for the revamp and expansion of Sobhanbagh Mosque in Dhaka. The Tk 500 million project had a deadline of December this year. The ministry, however, said that the project made one percent infrastructural progress only.

Another project of the national parliament has met the same fate with only one percent progress in terms of preparing the physical infrastructure.

A report submitted to the parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Housing and Public Works showed that at least 102 projects exist under different departments of the ministry.

This includes 33 projects under the PWD, 32 under the National Housing Authority, and 10 under Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha or RAJUK.

As many as 19 projects under the PWD have made 30 percent progress or less. Among them, 14 had a deadline in December this year.

The construction of a multi-storey building in Officer's Club was supposed to be completed in June this year, but it has not made any progress at all. Only the tender for the work has been floated.

The National Housing Authority were scheduled to complete eight projects this year but none of those have made even 50 percent progress.

The NHA also took a project to develop residential plots for the people from lower and middle income groups in Sadar Upazila, Habiganj in July 2016. The project aimed to develop 132 plots in seven acres of land and was supposed to be completed in December this year. The project, however, has just been scrutinising the tenders.

The parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Housing and Public Works believes that the progress of ongoing projects is 'not good.'

"The ministry needs to change its way of work. Their work is not dynamic because of the system," said former housing minister Mosharraf Hossain, who is in charge of monitoring the work progress.

"Usually, the projects are designed in a hurry in our country. Therefore, a conflict arises between the ongoing work and the reality while implementing them, leading to the complications and delay," Prof Shamsul Haque of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology or BUET told bdnews24.com.  

“When the time is extended, it pushes the cost up. Then the DPP needs to be overhauled. The contractor wants to lower the cost which decreases the quality of work. In developed world, they plan it perfectly with enough time."

The culture in Bangladesh is to start the work anyhow and then keep on working while changing the plan several times, he said. "It's a very bad culture."

The government should also ensure that the projects are assigned to such officials who can continue the work for long, the expert said.

'Repeated change of project directors slows down a project work."

 The well known RAJUK project of  constructing apartments for the people from lower and middle income groups in Sector 18, Uttara, has made only 42 percent progress, while the deadline was in December this year

Similarly, Jhilmil Residential Project work has lost its pace too, with only five percent progress made.

A dishonest quarter has been involved in the works of the housing ministry for long, engineer Iqbal Habib told bdnews24.com.

"This group has created a dirty atmosphere. The government took action against those running illegal casinos, and that was the time when the existence of this group came to light. Many incidents including the 'pillow scam' were unfolded and the works got halted,' he said.

“This is because this group members were the contractors of many project works and they went into hiding. The government started to review the works  and they got delayed."

The departments under the ministry have faced the 'wrath' of the government with many officials transferred or punished otherwise, he believed.

All these issues caused the delay in the ministry's work, he said. 'But I see it quite positively. It is better if the works are transparent despite the delay."

State Minister for Housing and Public Works Sharif Ahmed was not available for comment phone, while Secretary Shahid Ullah Khondkar declined to speak on the issue over phone.