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WB-funded e-GP fails to check graft

Political influence, collusion, syndication still play major role in public procurement

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:18, Sep 17,2020 | Updated: 17:33, Sep 17,2020

 
 

Transparency International Bangladesh on Wednesday said that the introduction the e-government procurement hardly checked corruption in the public procurement that crossed over Tk 2 lakh crore annually.

The main aim of the e-GP, a joint initiative of the government and the World Bank since 2011, was to curb corruption among the public entities involved in implementing development projects.

But the effort was also a part of government commitment to digitise public services by 2021, which got derailed because of ‘political influence as well as collusion and syndication’.

The TIB made the observations while releasing the findings of a study on ‘The Governance in Public Procurement: Effectiveness of e-GP in Bangladesh’ in a virtual programme. 

The study was done on four public entities on the basis of five criteria — institutional capacity, e-GP process, e-contract management, transparency and accountability, and effectiveness.

The public entities are local government and engineering department, roads and highways department, water development board and rural electrification board.

The quartet scored zero in management and effectiveness criteria while their scores — ranging from 19 per cent to 30 per cent — were also much lower in transparency and accountability criteria.

In terms of institutional capacity, the position of all the procuring entities was satisfactory and close to the position ranging from 60 per cent to 75 per cent.

But the overall score of RHD was 50 per cent, followed by REB 44 per cent, WDB 43 per cent and LGED 42 per cent, much lower than the TIB benchmark of 90 per cent, said the TIB study.

Commenting on the findings, the TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman said the e-GP had failed to curb corruption.

He blamed the political inertia for the ineffective e-GP that could not bring any expected improvement in ensuring transparency in public procurement, one of the lucrative areas for corruption globally.

At least US$ 400 billion a year are lost to bribery and corruption in public procurement across the world, said the TIB study, adding that corruption in public procurement is identified as a huge problem also in Bangladesh in many international surveys.

Incidences of corruption have already been identified in studies completed by TIB on different sectors  like power, telecom, health, climate finance and institutions like Bangladesh Biman, CAG, LGED, WDB and NCTB.

A major portion of any budget, which varies between 8.5 per cent and 27 per cent, is lost due to corruption in the procurement process, according to the TIB.

A press release issued by the World Bank on August 2017, said that the annual expenditure on public procurement in Bangladesh amounted to over US$7 billion or (approximately Tk 5,60,000 crore), representing 70 per cent of the annual development programme.

Since 2002, the WB had been helping Bangladesh improve its public procurement system, and in 2011, the WB supported the rollout of e-GP in four key procuring entities.

Currently, about 35 per cent of the annual development budget is executed using the e-GP platform.

Replying to a question as to why prescription of the leading multinational companies did not give any dividend to check the vicious cycle of corruption, Iftekharuzzaman said that the WB was not a ‘magic bullet’.

The WB was providing technical and financial supports, but problems like collusion and syndication should be addressed by the ruling party driven by its political will, he said.

In the study, the TIB recommended a dozen of suggestions to increase effectiveness of the e-GP.

It said the e-GP must be freed from the vicious circle of political influence, collusion and syndication.

The annual procurement plan of each procuring entity must be made at the beginning of each financial year and uploaded on the website while an online database on contractors must be developed.

The Central Procurement and Technical Unit under the planning ministry should have an integrated automated tender evaluation system that will be used by all government procurement entities.

Information on income and assets of officials of procuring entities and their family members must be submitted to the superior officers and disclosed at the end of each year.

Activities of each procuring entity should be monitored at the local level with the participation of common people through community monitoring tools, the TIB added.

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