The construction of the country's first-ever metro rail saw utilisation of only 66% of its foreign fund in FY21, mainly because procurements of necessary equipment got disrupted in the pandemic time.
Some Tk4,076 crore in foreign aid was earmarked for five projects under the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), but Tk2,748 crore could be utilised. On the other hand, the project implementing company spent almost 100% of domestic allocation in the fiscal year.
The DMTCL spent around Tk6,300 crore of the total ADP allocation of over Tk7,245 crore – including domestic and foreign funds – in FY21, according to an ADP implementation review report.
The report prepared by the Economic Relations Division (ERD) said the disbursement of foreign funds takes more time than that of domestic funds as the implementation of a project with foreign assistance requires approval of agencies concerned in hiring consultants and selecting contractors.
Moreover, a lack of skills in project implementation, inefficiency in bargaining with foreign companies and various other reasons make it difficult to get foreign aid, as per the report.
Managing Director of DMTCL MAN Siddique said, "The use of foreign funds depends a lot on the pandemic situation of donor countries as well as suppliers of goods and services."
Giving an example, he said five metro trains were supposed to arrive from Japan by last June. "We could not carry out direct inspections owing to travel restrictions imposed by the Japanese government amid Covid-19. That is why we had the inspection done by appointing a Japanese consulting firm."
Under such an arrangement, it was possible to bring in only two locomotives. The arrival of the remaining three will be delayed as many more restrictions have now been imposed because of the ongoing Olympic Games alongside the travel ban still in force, the DMTCL managing director said.
Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, secretary to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division Secretary, told The Business Standard, "It is true that it takes some extra time to get foreign aid. However, it is not fair that a large portion of it for an important project [metro rail] was not disbursed."
The IMED secretary said in the case of spending government funds on projects, only following public procurement rules was enough. But to spend foreign aid, it is also necessary to abide by different policies of different donor agencies or countries. That is why the utilisation of foreign funds remains comparatively low.
Officials concerned at the ADP review meeting of the Road Transport and Highways Division expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that a large portion of foreign aid in DMTCL's projects was not spent.
The review report said more than Tk1,328 crore remained unutilised from the foreign aid allocation for five projects, including three construction projects and two survey projects under the DMTCL.
Several officials who took part in the meeting said Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary Md Nazrul Islam expressed dissatisfaction with the DMTCL for not being able to use all of its foreign aid.
At the meeting, the secretary said the ADP implementation of other departments of the division was close to 100%, but the overall progress had been slow due to the failure of DMTCL.
The MRT Line-6 project involving Tk22,000 crore started in 2012 and its tenure will end in June 2024. At the end of last June, the project's financial progress stood at around 71%. Had 100% of the allocated foreign aid been used, 77% of the project work would have been completed.
The project for setting MRT Line-1 from the airport to Kamalapur railway station and from Natun Bazar to Purbachal was approved in 2019. The project involving Tk52,561 crore has so far made 1.5% progress.
The financial progress of the MRT Line-5 (northern) from Hemayetpur in Savar to Bhatara, via Mirpur-10 and Banani, has been about 3%.
According to the DMTCL sources, the government wants to set up about 129km of underground and elevated routes of six metro rail lines in Dhaka by 2030.
Of these, construction of a 71.24km line has started under three projects involving Tk115,785 crore. The Japan International Cooperation Agency will provide about 75% of the costs of these projects as loans.
The project to set up a metro rail line from Uttara to Motijheel started in 2012 and overall progress in the project has been 67.63%. The progress of the Uttara-Agargaon route is 87.8%. The work from Agargaon to Motijheel section has made 59.48% progress.
Under the MRT Line-1 project, detailed design work is underway at the end of the basic design for the construction of metro rail from the airport to Kamalapur and from Natunbazar to Purbachal. Acquisition of about 93 acres of land for the project is also in progress.
A feasibility study and basic design of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project Line-5 (north) project have been completed, said officials.