World Bank ‘Padma report’ with Muhith

The World Bank has handed over a probe report into the alleged corruption in the Padma project to Finance Minister AMA Muhith, six months after its investigators left the country.Its Country Director for Bangladesh Johannes Zutt took the report to Muhith on Tuesday.
Minister Muhith said the Bank’s investigators had made a set of recommendations for the national anti-graft agency, the Anti Corruption Commission, while probing the said corruption.
But he did not say the probe had provided definite evidence of graft.
Muhith sidestepped a direct question about whether the report would be made public and if so how soon.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Washington-based global lender suspended its pledged $1.2 bln credit in the $2.9 bln project raising graft allegations involving ministers and top government officials.
The government has denied the allegations outright and had ordered the ACC to start its own probe into the allegations, which center round the awarding of the project’s consultancy to Canadian construction major SNC-Lavalin.
The World Bank has banned SNC for 10 years accusing it of ‘misconduct’ in the Padma bridge project.
Over a 100 affiliates of SNC-Lavalin have also been blacklisted.
SNC-Lavalin Inc is said to be a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin Group representing more than 60 percent of its business.
The ban is being enforced under ‘Negotiated Resolution Agreement’ between the World Bank and SNC-Lavalin Group following investigations into allegations of bribery allegations involving SNC-Lavalin Inc and Bangladesh officials, a World Bank press release said.
This is perhaps one of the toughest punishments the World Bank has ever meted out to any company looking to work on its projects.
Analysts say that action was indicative enough that the World Bank believes SNC-Lavalin tried to secure the consultancy through unfair means.
Former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain, who has been at the receiving end of the graft allegations blamed his woes on “wicked journalism” since he had to step down.
But though the World Bank moved against the SNC-Lavalin, it decided to return to the project if the government agreed to investigate the graft allegations and cooperate with its own investigations.
A three-member World Bank external panel, led by Luis Gabriel Moreno Ocampo, visited Dhaka twice last year to check on leads and manage evidence.
But with elections not far off and the government keen to get the Padma project started within its tenure, it withdrew its financing request in January this year.
Initially, the Awami League government explored funding alternatives but when China and Malaysia came up with proposals, Finance Minister Muhith said Bangladesh will do its biggest ever infrastructure project with its own resources.
The Finance Minster has proposed an allocation of Tk 68.52 bln in the 2013-14 budget for the forthcoming fiscal.
Communication Minister Obaidul Quader has said a Tk 91.72 bln global tender would be floated on Jun 30 for the construction of the bridge.

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