Happily, at last Canada has found out ‘speculation and rumour’. The so-called Padma Bridge Scandal was the largest political scandal in Bangladesh that involved the ruling Bangladesh Awami League’s government. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said she could challenge the World Bank allegation of graft in Padma Bridge project because of her ‘power of honesty’.
As a result of this scandal, the World Bank pulled out of the project to build Bangladesh’s largest bridge, citing corruption concerns, cancelling a $1.2bn (£764m) credit for the 6 km-long road-rail bridge over the Padma River.It was a great embarrassment on the part of the present government. An enormous pressure mounted on Bangladesh when the World Bank brought the allegation, setting conditions and forcing Bangladesh to investigate the complaint.
The World Bank alleged that there had been a ‘conspiracy’ plotted to stage a high level corruption in the project: “The World Bank has credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC Lavalin executives, and private individuals in connection with the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project”.
The World Bank said: “To be willing to go forward with the alternative turnkey-style approach, we sought the following actions: (i) place all public officials suspected of involvement in the corruption scheme on leave from Government employment until the investigation is completed; (ii) appoint a special inquiry team within the ACC to handle the investigation, and (iii) agree to provide full and adequate access to all investigative information to a panel appointed by the World Bank composed of internationally recognized experts so that the panel can give guidance to the lenders on the progress, adequacy, and fairness of the investigation. We worked extensively with the Government and the ACC to ensure that all actions requested were fully aligned with Bangladeshi laws and procedures”.
However, now it has been proved wrong. Law Minister Anisul Huq has asked the World Bank to apologise to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for bringing charges of corruption in the Padma Bridge project.He raised the demand during a discussion in Parliament after a Canadian court acquitted three business executives of charges of planning to bribe Bangladeshi officials to get the Padma Bridge job. He also said legal steps could be taken against the World Bank over the incident.
Senior government officials, including the then bridges secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, were arrested and communications minister Syed Abul Hossain had to step down. PM’s Adviser Moshiur Rahman was also sent on forced leave. The investigation by Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission found no proof of the allegation brought by the World Bank.
The World Bank, however, rejected Bangladesh’s findings and withdrew the funds it had promised for the project. Bangladesh is now building the bridge with its own money.Following the publication of the Canadian court verdict, ruling Awami League leaders have spoken out against the World Bank and the section of media which reported extensively on the issue.
A W Mansoor Ahmed
Jessore Road, Khulna