AN ABNORMALLY high spending, as proposed in the development project proposal of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, in the Population and Housing Census 2021 brings to the fore irregularities in government projects once again. The project cost of the 2021 census has been set at Tk 1,761.79 crore, up by 643 per cent, or Tk 1,524.79 crore, from the Tk 237 crore spent on the 2011 census. The agency has also planned to spend 10–211 times the amount it spent on procurement in the 2011 census. It plans to spend 211 times the amount spent on data processing in the 2011 census, 10 times the amount spent on stationery procurement and 75 times the amount spent on map procurement. The procurement cost should obviously be higher now, but the estimated cost appears to be abnormally high. The agency has also planned to spend a large amount on areas such as outsourcing and consultant appointment that some officials of the agency also think unnecessary.
The bureau has planned to spend Tk 268 crore on data entry and processing while the cost was only Tk 1.02 crore in the 2011 census. The bureau has plans to hire a data processing firm for Tk 160 crore for data analysis and processing and has already selected a firm for the appointment of 650 data entry operators for Tk 108 crore. In the 2011 census, the agency used its own computer wing and personnel to do the jobs which that time cost only Tk 1.02 crore. Moreover, when the agency has planned to procure 10 intelligent character readers for data input, each capable of processing up to 10,000 questionnaires an hour requiring no data entry operator, the plan to spend such a hefty amount on the appointment of data entry operators appears to be a waste of public money. The plan estimates the cost of a questionnaire processing at Tk 67, up by 211 times the amount of Tk 0.32 spent on the job in the 2011 census. The allocation of Tk 27.1 crore for satellite maps appears, as even some BBS officials say, to be a waste as the map is already available with the bureau. The plan for the appointment of high-salaried consultants and the purchase of expensive vehicles also point to the much-criticised pattern of irregularities in government projects.
The planning ministry is reported to be worried about the allegations of irregularities while the Central Procurement and Technical Unit has already declared the appointment of a consultant illegal and is examining the selection of a firm for hiring data entry operators. The government and the ministry concerned must, therefore, thoroughly scrutinise the project proposal to stop any waste of public money.
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