Finance Minister AMA Muhith hopes that the foundation stone of the Padma bridge will be laid during the tenure of the present government.
“I hope that the foundation stone of the bridge will be laid, and the construction of yards for the project will start before the tenure of the present government ends,” Muhith told reporters yesterday after a meeting of the cabinet purchase committee at the cabinet division.
He made the comment after reporters asked him about the fate of the Padma bridge project that once again ran into a snag.
Replying to a query, Muhith said, “The Padma bridge will be built with funds from co-financiers. But I don't know which financier will stay or leave the project.”
The minister earlier had discussions with Ellen Goldstein, World Bank country director for Bangladesh, at a function in the capital.
He said Goldstein's three-year tenure as country director in Bangladesh will end in about three months, and she will be replaced by another WB official.
Goldstein on Tuesday said they will inform the government about the Bank's decision after getting the WB external panel's opinion about the adequacy of the ACC investigation into the corruption allegations in the project.
Her comments came after the Anti-Corruption Commission on Monday sued seven persons for their involvement in a corruption conspiracy over the $2.9 billion project.
Muhith yesterday told reporters, “I have told Ellen that time is running out. We can't wait too long…Give your opinion soon.”
He said Goldstein, in reply, told him that it was her hunch that the WB might need time till January for giving its opinion.
The minister said, “I am still hopeful that they [the WB] will finance the Padma bridge project. I am absolutely certain that no corruption took place [in the project].”
Referring to the case filed by the ACC, Muhith said the WB provided the ACC with sufficient evidence on November 13 for filing case in connection with the corruption conspiracy. What the global lender gave the commission earlier was not “credible” according to Bangladesh laws.
And the ACC filed the case against seven persons on the basis of the evidence it received on November 13.
The evidence showed that the seven persons made arrangements to favour a party by exchanging some information, Muhith said.
He said there are allegations that the party involved in the corruption conspiracy met a minister [ex-communications minister Syed Abul Hossain], but this is not considered a crime in Bangladesh.
He said not only contractors but also ambassador of the country concerned meet a minister for securing a work order in a project.
“I am the only exception, as I have never met anyone in such a case,” Muhith said.