Dhaka, Jun 30 (bdnews24.com) – The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has termed the cancellation of World Bank's fund to build Padma bridge 'deeply regrettable, embarrassing and disappointing', and urged the lending agency to 'review' its decision in the public interest.
In a statement hours after the lending agency's decision on Saturday, the graft watchdog dubbed the decision an 'acid-test' for the government.
It called upon the government to set up a 'fully independent special judicial committee' to investigate the allegations of corruption and ensure exemplary punishment to those found guilty.
It also called upon the global lender to continue to engage with the government to assist in the investigation process, and 'keep the credit open parallel with the investigation process.'
A statement from World Bank on Friday said it was cancelling $1.2 billion credit for the Padma bridge project, saying it had "credible evidence" of a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials.
It had halted its funding citing graft allegations on Oct 10 last year.
"In light of the inadequate response by the government of Bangladesh, the World Bank has decided to cancel its $1.2 billion ... credit in support of the Padma multipurpose bridge project, effective immediately," the bank had said.
"The decision is not the end of the story of the government's relationship with the Bank in connection with the Padma bridge, but the beginning of a new phase," TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said in the statement hours after the World Bank's decision.
"It comes as an acid-test for the government, which must demonstrate to the nation that it has the courage and capacity to bring to justice those against whom allegation of corruption has been raised, and provide exemplary punishment, if found guilty," he also said.
Iftekharuzzaman suggested setting up a special judicial committee with full powers, independence and technical support, to investigate the matter and recommend action in accordance with the relevant laws within a specific deadline.
"The report of the Committee must be published for public information at the same time as submitted to the relevant authority."
TIB, however, said the World Bank's decision was in some ways expected.
"As a new-comer to the world of openness and accountability, which according to independent reviews constituted by the Bank itself, has been found at least partially responsible for misuse of funds disbursed by it over the years, seems to have recently adopted a policy of chopping off the head because of a perceived headache."
The TIB statement said instead of depriving the people of the benefits of funds that the Bank, it should be more strategic and continue to engage with the government.
The statement said while investigations on alleged corruption continued in Bangladesh and Canada, to which World Bank should provide full support, it should review the decision, and find ways to provide the credit by sharing the responsibility as a key fiduciary agent of the project 'to ensure integrity, transparency and accountability in the implementation process'.
"Neither the World Bank, nor the Government can punish the people of the country for an alleged crime of a handful of people," Iftekharuzzaman said.
The statement, however, said the government's initiative to secure funds for the Padma bridge from alternative sources might be perceived as 'a way to divert the attention from the allegation of corruption'. "Even if it succeeds, it would not help the credibility crisis that the government faces."