A bridge project sees eight PDs in seven years

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 26 Aug 2017, 01:29:15 | Updated : 26 Aug 2017, 10:11:35

A bridge project sees eight PDs in seven years

Cost, time overrun with no main work on Shitalakhya Bridge
FHM Humayan Kabir

A bridge-construction project has seen eight project directors (PD) in seven years sans physical work, officials said.

With seven years having elapsed, the project's physical works are yet to be started on the Shitalakhya Bridge though its current deadline was over in June this year.

In the meantime, the government has extended the project-execution deadline thrice from the original timeline between November 2010 and December 2013.

Besides, the project cost has also been revised (special) by the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges (MoRT&B), raising the amount by 43 per cent to Tk 5.39 billion.

Now, the project-executing agency has sought 60 per cent higher funds and four more years for completing the scheme.

All this happened in the Roads and Highway Department (RHD)'s 3rd Shitalakhya Bridge project. The bridge connects Syedpur (Madanganj) and Bandar (Narayanganj) points across the river.

Officials said the RHD recently sought revision of the Shitalakhya Bridge project for a second time with the cost-overrun by 60 per cent to Tk 6.03 billion from the original Tk 3.77 billion.

It has also sought four more years up to 2021 from the existing deadline of the financial year (FY) 2016-17 to complete the 1.29-kilometre bridge building which will connect Narayanganj with the capital city, Dhaka.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the project in November 2010 with a cost of Tk 3.77 billion for completing it by December 2013.

Out of the total cost, the government earmarked Tk3.11 billion as project aid, to be supplied by a development partner, while the rest Tk659.8 million proposed to be spent from government exchequer.

As per the request of the RHD, the Planning Commission (PC) extended the execution deadline for the project without raising the cost on two occasions -- first time up to December 2014 and second up to December 2016.

Then the minister for the MoRT&B got the cost enhanced by 43 per cent to Tk 5.39 billion through a special revision in June 2015.

For a third time around, the PC has extended the project-implementation deadline up to June 2017.

Meanwhile, PD of the project M Shamsul Huq said firstly, the project execution has been delayed due to absence of external fund confirmation by the development partner.

Besides, delay in appointment of supervision consultants and slow approval process from the selected donor--Saudi Fund for Development (SFD)--are two other key reasons that held back the project execution, he told the FE.

"Now all the obstacles have been removed. Early this year, we awarded contract to a Chinese company for construction of the bridge. The contractor is mobilising machinery and necessary equipment for building the Shitalakhya bridge. We hope work on the main bridge will start soon," Mr Huq said.

Asked about the proposed project revision with cost escalation, the PD said the cost of the project increased due mainly to the higher bidding price by the contractor and increase in land prices and other construction materials.

The RHD signed a contract with Sinohydro worth Tk 4.48 billion in February 2017 for constructing the bridge within 36 months.

"Besides, one more year after the 36 months construction timeline for the contractor has been kept aside as the "defect liability period" for the contractor. Defect-liability period means guarantee of the works by the contractor," he added.

Mr Huq said: "Those above factors have forced us to revise the project with higher cost and extended time up to June 2021."

According to the Economic Relations Division (ERD), the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) confirmed Tk 3.33 billion worth of loans for the Shitalakhya Bridge project in July 2014.

Usually the development partner releases funds in several tranches based on the expenditure of the Project Aid by the executing agency.

The PD, Mr Huq, said: "Some works have already been started. We sought funds from the SFD in March 2017 against the expenditure. The development partner is yet to release the funds."

Former caretaker government Finance and Planning Adviser Dr Mirza Azizul Islam said the government should introduce rewards for PDs and project staffs.

"If any project is not executed properly, the PD and involved officials should be punished. And those who will complete the project successfully should be awarded," he told this correspondent.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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