Mashiur says donors offered him foreign consultancy if he gave up Padma Bridge job

Mashiur Rahman, the economic affairs advisor to the prime minister, has recalled the pressure he faced to step down from his role as the Padma Bridge project's integrity adviser after the World Bank alleged corruption in the project a decade ago.

With the inauguration of the bridge built on Bangladesh’s own funds less than a month away, Mashiur said on Saturday the donor agencies, including the World Bank, offered him consultancy abroad if he relinquished his responsibilities in the project.

The then communications minister Syed Abul Hossain resigned and the former secretary to the Bridges Division was put on forced leave after the World Bank brought the allegations.       

Speaking at a programme of the ruling Awami League, Mashiur said he had not agreed to step down following the World Bank’s demand. He thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for backing him.   

Mashiur recalled officials of the World Bank and others who proposed to finance the project, such as the Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency, had sought a meeting with him at the Embassy of Japan in Dhaka amid the tug-of-war over the funds.

He said he refused to meet them at the embassy because it would send a wrong message to the people that he had bowed down to the pressure.

Finally, the officials met him at his office and said he must give up the Padma Bridge role and leave Bangladesh, he said.

“In exchange for that, they offered me consultancy at the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank or somewhere else and the exact amount of salary I want. They also offered me a job at any university.”

“My response was that I could've made the money they offered if I was engaged in corruption as they had alleged. Their proposal was inconsistent. They wanted to reward the person they accused.”

Mashiur said his friends and Awami League leaders also advised him to leave the country.

“I must say now how I mustered the courage to hold firm…I said I wouldn't leave the country because I'd have lost the ground under my feet had I done so.”

Mashiur did not try to hold back emotions as he spoke. “The prime minister gave me courage,” he said, with his eyes filled with tears. “I'll be safe until the shadow of Bangabandhu protects me.”

Mashiur said it would not be possible for Bangladesh to build the bridge without Hasina’s wit and courage. After the World Bank rolled back the funds, Hasina announced Bangladesh would construct the bridge with its own funds.