Ellen Goldstein, country director of World Bank, speaks at a press briefing in the capital on Sunday. Photo: Rashed Shumon/The Daily Star
The World Bank on Sunday said a decision on whether Padma bridge construction and investigation into alleged ‘corruption conspiracy’ could go simultaneously would be made after the lending agency’s second panel arrives in Dhaka.
At a news conference the agency’s Country Director for Bangladesh, Ellen Goldstein, said that they would not object if a decision came that implementation of the project and the investigation would run simultaneously.
But she found that process would be time-consuming and would not specify any timeframe when the project may begin.
Goldstein, who also heads the Bank’s operations in Nepal, made the statement in response to queries at a press conference on Bangladesh’s current economic situation at its Dhaka office.
Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on Oct 17 said that Bangladesh wants that the investigation and the project go simultaneously.
“Our demand is — investigation and implementation of the project should go together. Whether it will happen we will know once the second WB team comes (to Dhaka).”
Goldstein said the second team is coming to Dhaka early next month to discuss the work plan of the project.
That team will discuss and finalise the date to start the implementation and how the investigation will run, she said.
She said that there was institutional deficiency in the Padma bridge inquiry and that the Bank wanted to address those for a solution.
Goldstein was hopeful of an understanding through the visit of the three-member panel assigned to oversee the investigation process.
About the second team, she said the next panel of representatives is scheduled to arrive in November but there was no final date yet.
Economic Relations Division Secretary Iqbal Mahmood, however, on Oct 18 said the second World Bank team would arrive in the first week of November to decide strategies for the project’s implementation.
The Washington-based global lender on June 29 had cancelled its pledged $1.2-billion fund, claiming to have found ‘credible evidence’ of high-level corruption by government officials associated with the $2.9 billion project.
Amid the government’s persuasion, the Bank announced revival of the agreement on Sept 20 but said the final decision would be taken based on its inquiry supervision panel’s report.
On Oct 1, the Bank said it would send two teams to Dhaka to assess the government’s measures to investigate ‘corruption’ in the project as per their condition to the government.
One of the two teams will evaluate the fairness of the Bangladeshi investigations, and in conjunction with this assessment, the second panel will collaborate with the Bank’s co-financiers in modifying the project implementation arrangements to ensure greater oversight of procurement process.
One of the two panels, formed to oversee the Anti-Corruption Commission probe into the alleged corruption, left Dhaka on Oct 16 after ending its three-day visit.
The World Bank wants the Anti-Corruption Commission to move fast with the investigation in the Padma bridge project, Ellen Goldstein, country director of the global lender, said on Sunday.
“The (WB’s external) panel is encouraging the ACC to move ahead with some speed to deepen the investigation process,” Ellen told journalists at a briefing on the Bangladesh’s economic update at the WB office in Dhaka.
She also said the panel has requested the ACC in written to provide it (panel) with more information on the issue.
The three-member external panel of WB headed by Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, assigned to review the investigation into the Padma bridge corruption allegation, left Dhaka on October 16 wrapping up its two-day visit.
The visit was the first of a series of visits on the issue.
Ellen said the panel’s next visit is yet to be finalised, but hinted that it may come again in December-January.
On the economic issue, the WB forecast that Bangladesh’s economy will grow at around 6 percent this fiscal year, which is down from last year’s 6.3 percent, mainly due to weak external demand and domestic investment constraints.
WB’s senior economist Zahid Hussain presented the keynote paper on the economy.