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Padma Bridge Acid-test for the Government; World Bank cancellation questionable, says TIB

The World Bank’s cancellation of the $1.2 billion credit as part of the $2.9 billion Padma bridge project is deeply regrettable, embarrassing and disappointing, says Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB). TIB calls upon the Government to set up a fully independent special judicial committee to investigate into the allegations of corruption and ensure exemplary punishment to those found guilty. TIB also calls upon the World Bank to continue to engage with the Government to assist the investigation process, and keep the credit open parallel with the investigation process.

Reacting to the World Bank decision to cancel the credit, Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB said, “the decision is not the end of the story of the government’s relationship with the Bank in connection with the Padma Bridge, but the beginning of a new phase. It comes as an acid-test for the Government, which must demonstrate to the nation that it has the courage and capacity to bring to justice those against whom allegation of corruption has been raised and provide exemplary punishment, if found guilty”.

“We call upon the Government to set up a special judicial committee with full powers, independence and technical support, to investigate into the matter and recommend action in accord with the relevant laws within a specific deadline”, he said. The report of the Committee must be published for public information at the same time as submitted to the relevant authority, the statement said.

“The World Bank’s decision was in some ways expected. As a new-comer to the world of openness and accountability, which according to independent reviews constituted by the Bank itself, has been found at least partially responsible for misuse of funds disbursed by it over the years, seems to have recently adopted a policy of chopping off the head because of a perceived headache”. Dr Zaman said.

Instead of depriving the people of the benefits of funds that the Bank draws from global public sources, the Bank should be more strategic and continue to engage with the Government. While investigations on alleged corruption continues in Bangladesh and Canada, to which World Bank should provide full support, it should review the decision, and find ways to provide the credit by sharing the responsibility as a key fiduciary agent of the project to ensure integrity, transparency and accountability in the implementation process.

“Neither the World Bank, not the Government can punish the people of the country for an alleged crime of a handful of people”, Iftekharuzzaman said.

“The Government’s initiative to secure funds for the Padma bridge from alternative sources may be perceived as a way to divert the attention from the allegation of corruption, but even if it succeeds, it would not help the credibility crisis that the Government faces”, the statement said.

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