Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has claimed that though the World Bank raised corruption allegations against the Padma bridge project, the global lender could not provide graft evidence in favour of its allegations.
Hasina made the comments at an interview with BBC’s HARDtalk during her five-day London visit to attend the inaugural ceremony of London Olympics 2012.
Part of the interview is given below:
BBC: Why has the World Bank lost confidence in your government’s ability to deliver on clean governance, let’s be clear what we were talking about. The World Bank wanted to put more than a billion dollars of funding into one of the most important infrastructural projects your country is seeing in many years – that is the Padma bridge project. They withdrew the funding because they had alerted your government to corruption in the handing out of contract they wanted action, they were not satisfied with the actions you have taken.
Hasina: Suddenly, they raised the issue. Then we – my finance minister and I, personally asked them, okay you give the proof. But they couldn’t place any substantial proof that there is corruption, they didn’t. And the main point is…
BBC: I am sorry, are you denying that there has been corruption in the handing out of contract in this Padma bridge project?
Hasina: Of course, of course, listen…
BBC: Then, I am puzzled because one of the key ministers who stand accused in involvement in these has just quit your government, why is that? If there was no wrongdoing why has he done that?
Hasina: Many people started accusing him so he resigned. He has done a brave thing. Had he been involved in this corruption, perhaps he would not have resigned.
BBC: The question is, here on this particular project, on simple one…
Hasina: No, no let me prove it…
BBC: The World Bank sent a letter outlining their concerns, there were at least four different itemised concerns about corruption, now you have the opportunity to publish that letter to tell the Bangladeshi people exactly what the concerns were. You constantly refused to do that, why will you not publish that letter?
Hasina: You can not do that because there is an embargo.
BBC: No, the World Bank is happy to do that.
Hasina: No, it is not true. They cannot do it.
BBC: Of course, they can, they say…
Hasina: Then, ask them to publish.
BBC: But they say, they can not publish.
Hasina: Why not? Why not?
BBC: Because that’s how World Bank relationship with individual states works. You have the right, they do not.
Hasina: Listen, the letter doesn’t mean anything. They should have proved with it. They could not supply any substantial proof with that letter. Just a letter cannot prove, yes, there is corruption. Time and again we asked it.
BBC: The opposition says that the letter points at you and other senior figures of your government, is that true?
Hasina: Listen, you can point anybody and the opposition can do it. It is the opposition job. My point is, our Anti-Corruption Commission – already they are investigating it and they asked the World Bank to send all the documents and they denied to send it. Now my question is, why they denied? If they have substantial proof why they denied to send all the papers and documents they have? They are not supplying, I personally want it. At first they placed two letters to me, that was not my government, not my ministers. I pointed out this was the previous government. So you give me the proof. Twice they did it but they could not prove. So, unnecessarily you cannot just accuse one without substantial proof – that is important.