The World Bank (WB) said Tuesday, it will give its decision on financing of the Padma Bridge project on the basis of assessment of the First Information Report (FIR), filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Monday, by its external panel of experts.
The WB statement came as Finance Minister AMA Muhith said on the same day that the government was looking forward to a positive response from the WB on the issue of its funding of the project as the ACC has taken action against seven suspects.
"Decisions by the WB regarding future project financing and implementation would depend on the outcome of the External Panel's assessment," WB Country Director in Bangladesh Ellen Goldstein said in a statement a day after the filing of the case against seven suspects in connection with Padma Bridge graft conspiracy.
Ms Ellen Goldstein further said: "The External Panel of internationally-recognized anti-corruption experts will issue a report assessing the adequacy of the Anti-Corruption Commission's investigation once they have an opportunity to fully review and discuss the FIR."
The ACC Monday filed the case for graft conspiracy in the process of appointing a Canadian consulting firm --SNC Lavalin --for Padma Bridge construction supervision works.
Before filing the case, an ACC inquiry team found nine persons involved in the alleged corruption and recommended to its headquarters to file the case against them.
The ACC, however, dropped the names of former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain and former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury from the list of suspects and filed a case with the Banani Police Station against seven persons Monday.
ACC, however, said it has not exonerated the two former ministers from the charge as their names remained on the FIR as graft suspects. Since no substantial documents were found against the duo, the ACC will further investigate their links.
Muhith said: "We hope to get a clear position from the WB on the matter (Padma bridge). I would have something to say about the issue after getting its response, if any".
The finance minister was talking to reporters on the sideline of a function marking the World Migrants Day 2012 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center in the city.
Responding to a query, the finance minister said, he is still hopeful of getting a positive response about having fund from the WB for the infrastructure project.
Muhith said he does not know much about discussions that took place between the ACC and the WB panel of international experts. "I know that the panel has put forward some suggestions to the ACC, which include the latter's action."
Muhith, however, refrained from making any further comment about the Padma Bridge project saying he would say more on the issue at the right time.
The ACC has gone ahead with its action by charging former bridge division secretary Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and six others for violating the country's existing laws and for being engaged in a graft conspiracy for appointing the Canadian firm.
The other accused persons in the case are Kazi M Ferdous, superintendent engineer of the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), M Riaz Ahmed Zaber, executive engineer of the Roads and Highways Department, Mohammad Mustafa, deputy managing director of Engineering and Planning Consultant Limited (EPC), Mohammad Ismail, a former director of the SNC Lavalin Inc, Romesh Shah, former vice president of the SNC Lavalin and Kevin Walace of the Canadian consultancy firm.
The WB's international anti-corruption expert panel visited Dhaka for the second time during December 1-5 to assess the ACC probe into the alleged corruption in the $2.9 billion Padma Bridge project.
The visit was very important for the Bangladesh side as its (panel) decision on the investigation will decide the fate of the suspended $1.20 billion loan by the World Bank, lead donor of funds for the Padma Bridge project.
The WB had suspended its financing to the Padma Bridge project alleging corruption. It formed an international external panel of experts to review the credibility of the ACC investigation.
Earlier, the WB had said it will finance the project only when the ACC investigation against the alleged corruption is found credible and action is taken against the suspected persons.