Many government officials go abroad for training even without knowing the training topic
Foreign tours by government officials are intended for gathering knowledge and enhancing skills, but these turn into mere pleasure trips and shopping tours.
Thus, a huge amount of taxpayer money is frittered away, said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Planning.
In its last meeting the committee also vented anger over the waste of public funds through corruption and irregularities in development projects.
According to the meeting minutes finalised recently, many government officials go abroad for training even without knowing the topic of the training.
Instead, government staffers who are directly involved with projects should be selected for training abroad, the parliamentary body argued.
Committee chairman Abul Kalam Azad presided over the meeting held on September 18. Planning Minister MA Mannan, among others, was also present.
Committee member Saber Hossain Chowdhury said the government does not have any statistics on how much knowledge gathered by officials during foreign training is being used in project implementation.
"After the completion of a foreign training programme, officials must submit a report stating what knowledge they have obtained from that training," Saber said.
He also noted that many officers get transferred to another ministry soon after they get training. In such cases, their knowledge does not benefit the projects.
The parliamentarian was also critical of the drafting of project proposals and of the determination of project costs. He cited the example of a project under the civil aviation authority in which the cost more than doubled to Tk15,000 crore from Tk7,000 crore within a year.
Referring to the civil aviation project, he questioned the process the ministries follow in taking up a project, and the way they determine the project cost.
"How do such projects get approval?" Saber asked in exasperation.
"The quality of a project does not improve with a hike in its cost. The ministries should have their own inspection cells to oversee development projects," he added.
Abul Kalam Azad said inspection failure pushes up both the project cost and time. In some cases, a project gets its deadline extended three to four times, he pointed out.
Parliamentarian Rowshan Ara Mannan said some projects even get six extensions of the deadline.
She also called for undertaking projects on birth control and family planning for slum residents and people of low-income who are "propagating unplanned population growth."
Development projects could be speeded up if administrative complications and corruption could be stopped, Monjur said.
He, however, claimed that digitisation has helped significantly in bringing down corruption in government projects.
Committee member Rafiqul Islam said the standing committee on the planning ministry during the last parliament suggested construction of concrete roads in places that are prone to water-logging. The suggestion is yet to be implemented.
Moreover, he claimed, "Many development projects are not implemented at the expected pace due to a shortage of funds. On the other hand, some ministries and divisions do not use the allocated funds to implement projects properly because of their own incompetence."
"Those ministries and offices should be identified. At the same time, allocations should be increased for ministries that need to implement more development projects," he argued.
Pointing out that sometimes foreign funds for various development project remain unspent, Hafiz Ahmed Mazumder, MP called for increasing accountability to avoid such bottlenecks.
He also emphasised the need to curb corruption, and provide transparency and accountability.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said the Standing Committee is tasked to analyse and investigate corruption or irregularities, and put forward recommends to the ministry.
Calling upon officials of all ministries, the minister stressed the need to maintain updated data and be more cautiousness when providing the standing committee on their respective ministry with any information.