As part of its condition for the revival of the Padma bridge loan deal, the World Bank wants its expert panel to be present when the Anti-Corruption Commission interrogates the persons allegedly involved in corruption in the project.
The panel will comprise three experts in the field of international investigation and prosecution and two WB staff members, according to the draft Terms of Reference (ToR).
The ACC and the WB are expected to sign the ToR when a WB delegation visits Dhaka next week, finance ministry officials told The Daily Star yesterday.
The draft was prepared in June but was not signed then, which was one of the reasons for the WB to cancel its $1.2-billion credit deal on June 29, they added, requesting anonymity.
According to the officials, the WB wants for its expert panel full access to all investigative findings, including documents and materials or any other information related to the alleged graft, by the ACC inquiry team.
Based on the advice and input from the panel on whether the investigation and related legal processes are proceeding in a full, fair and expeditious manner, the WB will decide on whether to delink future procurement and contracting decisions from the progress of the inquiry, according to the draft ToR.
On Sunday, Economic Relations Division Secretary Iqbal Mahmud told reporters, “Normally investigation and implementation remain separate. We hope that the two issues will not be linked.”
The WB team, which is expected to be in town next week, will hold talks with the co-financiers, ADB and Jica, about the investigation and implementation of the project. An ADB official has already flown to Dhaka from Manila to join the talks, a finance ministry official said.
The WB had first suspended its deal in September last year, raising allegations of corruption in the project and asking the government to take action against those involved.
In June this year, the bank cancelled the deal, setting four conditions for its return to the project. The conditions included sending former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain and prime minister’s adviser Mashiur Rahman on leave.
On September 20, the bank in a statement said it had revived the deal after the government “took actions necessary to fulfill the measures.”
To probe the WB allegations, the ACC will set up a special inquiry and prosecution team.
During the final negotiations with the Bangladesh delegation in Washington last week, the WB sought to include its representative in the ACC team but the Bangladesh side disagreed with the proposal, a top government official with knowledge of the negotiations said.
Meanwhile, Jica yesterday welcomed the WB decision to return to the project.
In a statement, Jica also appreciated the Bangladesh government’s “firm commitment” to build the bridge and its efforts toward meeting all the measures set by the WB to ensure a corruption-free and transparent implementation of the work.
Although considerable time has been lost, Jica strongly believes that it can be compensated through the concerted efforts of all the stakeholders, said the statement.
At the same time, Jica hoped that the government would continue its efforts to ensure a graft-free completion of the project.