WB VP to meet Hasina as she arrives today on urgent visit

A World Bank Vice President (VP) is coming to Dhaka today (Saturday) to alert the government to ensuring transparency in the multi-billion-dollar Padma Bridge project as a Canadian firm has allegedly influenced the authorities to get a consultancy work, officials have said.

Finance Ministry officials said World Bank (WB) Vice President Ms. Isabel Guerrero would arrive in Dhaka Saturday on an urgent visit to discuss with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina the latest developments in the Padma Bridge scheme.

"The Vice President will discuss the Padma Bridge issue with the Prime Minister. She will ask the premier to ensure transparency in the US$ 2.9 billion project," a World Bank official said.

Ms. Guerrero will meet Sheikh Hasina Sunday evening before leaving Dhaka on the night.

Since the Padma Bridge is a multi-billion-dollar scheme, it should have the highest transparency during implementation, as the WB wants to ensure maximum utilisation of its $1.2 billion credit, the official said requesting anonymity.

The World Bank has recently launched an investigation into an alleged corruption in the bidding process of the proposed Padma Bridge project.

As per request of the WB headquarters, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the offices of Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) near Toronto to probe the alleged offence.

SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) is among the primarily selected companies, which were vying for the supervision job for the US$ 2.9 billion multipurpose bridge over the river Padma, Bangladesh Bridge Division officials said.

A Finance Ministry official said: "Usually any high official used to come to Dhaka with minimum one month's notice. This time we have received the notice for Ms. Guerrero's visit in the last week of August."

"Actually we have so far been informed that Ms. Guerrero is coming here to request the government to ensure transparency in the work of the Padma Bridge project," he said.

The WB signed a deal in April with the government to extend $1.2 billion funds for the $2.9 billion bridge project.

The WB Dhaka office said following the reference of the WB's Independent Evaluation Group, the Canadian police has been searching employees and offices of the SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) in Toronto to probe the alleged fraud.

It said disbursement of its committed $1.2 billion in funds for the Padma Bridge project has not yet been authorised pending investigations by the Independent Evaluation Group, which is responsible for probing allegations of fraud and corruption in the bidding processes under the Bank financed operations.

The Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), the executing agency of the Padma Bridge, has already completed all evaluations to shortlist bidders for five categories of works including bridge construction, and that of its supervision contractor.

The government has undertaken the $2.9 billion project to build the country's east-west connecting 6.15 kilometre bridge across the river Padma, where World Bank will provide $1.2 billion in funds.

Besides, the Asian Development Bank has confirmed $615 million, Japan $420 million and Islamic Development Bank $140 million credit for constructing the bridge.

The government is committed to complete the bridge construction in its tenure by December 2013.

News Source: 
The Financial Express