Govt struggles with airport renovation projects

Extension of Cox’s Bazar airport runway in quagmire 

Shakhawat Hossain | Published: 23:53, Aug 08,2020 | Updated: 09:16, Aug 09,2020


The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism was struggling to speed up implementation of projects aimed at upgrading major airports including extension of the runway in Cox’s Bazar, officials said.

Inexperience and corruption in handling tender documents and inefficiency in preparing project proposals were blamed by the economists for the struggling condition of the ministries and divisions which led to the delay and cost escalation of the development projects.

Former caretaker government adviser Mirza Azizul Islam lamented that the number of costly projects increased over the years, whereas the capacity of the implantation agencies did not improve.

In November 2018, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved the Cox’s Bazar runway extension project.

But the ministry could not appoint a contractor in over one and half years.

In a meeting on July 28, the cabinet committee on national purchases did not entertain the proposal from the ministry to award the Tk 1,998 crore project to a Chinese joint venture for the second time.

Instead, the committee forwarded the proposal to the Prime Minister for further review since there were anomalies in the tender evaluation process detected by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division under the ministry of planning.

On June 24, the ministry, for the first time, sought the approval from the CCNP to appoint the contractor for implementing the project.

But against the backdrop of allegations of corruption by another participating joint-venture company led by a South Korean company, the CCNP asked the IMED  to review the tendering process.

IMED secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah told New Age on Saturday they had found flaws in tender evaluation process without elaborating the findings.

The civil aviation and tourism ministry secretary Md Mohibul Haque said they were now waiting for the PM’s directive on the issue.   

Terming the overall development unexpected for the ministry he said they maintained every rule over the six-month period to complete the tender evaluation process.

Other civil aviation ministry officials apprehended that the entire project would be delayed by one or two years if a decision of retendering was taken.

They also apprehended that the cost of the project aiming at elevating the standard of the country’s main tourist attraction might increase due to delay in appointing the contractor.

In November 2019, the construction cost of the third terminal at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport saw an increase of Tk 6,988 crore from Tk 13,610 crore even before the project was started.

Officials said it was an example of inefficiency of the civil aviation and tourism ministry to prepare the project document that was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council almost three years ago in October 2017.

The deadline of the project Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport project was also extended up to 2025 from previous 2022.

Mirza Azizul Islam said cost and time overrun of the projects nowadays became a common phenomenon.

Another project of the civil aviation ministry — asphalt overlay of the runway surface at Jashore Airport, Saidpur Airport and Shah Mukhdum Airport Rajshahi —was conceived almost two years back.

But the estimated Tk 5.45 billion project is yet to cross the planning commission hurdle.

Civil aviation and tourism ministry secretary Mohibul Haque hoped that the project would soon be approved.

Former Bangladesh Bank governor Salehuddin Ahmed said the government should give more emphasis on timely project implementation by improving efficiency of the implementing agencies.

There was no justification only in increasing the number of the projects, he said.   

The extension of the Cox’s Bazar airport runway was one of many projects taken at the fag end of the immediate past tenure of the present government.

On November 4, ECNEC had approved 39 projects at an estimated cost of Tk 86,678 crore and another 28 projects worth 30,243.60 in only three days, less than two months before the general polls were held on December 30, 2018.

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