Mr. M A Mannan MP, Honorable State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning at a Seminar jointly organized by Cabinet Division and BIGD
Effective use of technology and professionalism needed for quick disposal of audit objections
Effective use of technology can help in quick disposal of public sector audit objections, said Mr. M A Mannan MP, State Minister of Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning. Citing Government Performance Management System (GPMS), a creative tool which helps to measure performance and subsequently reveal what works and what does not, Mr. Mannan said the Audit department is a key player in ensuring that such useful technology-based tool gets used for the improvement of the system and establishing good governance. He also said professional conduct by the audit officials will play a critical role to restrict the climbing number of audit objections. He stressed on further simplification of the public audit system.
Mr. Mannan was addressing a seminar as the Chief Guest titled Facilitating Disposal of Audit Objections on March 12, 2016, co-organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and the Cabinet Division of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, in partnership with the World Bank Group under a project titled ‘Community of Practice on Performance Management in South Asia.’
Mr. Mahbub Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Finance Division attended the seminar as the Special Guest. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD and Mr. N M Zeaul Alam, Secretary in Charge (Coordination and Reforms), Cabinet Division delivered the opening and concluding remarks respectively. Mr. Mohammad Shafiul Alam, Cabinet Secretary chaired the event.
Mr. Mahbub Ahmed said there was a notion before the 90’s that resource constraint is the main problem for the developing nations. However, in current times, it is the lack of governance that poses the biggest threat. But audits can play a key role in ensuring accountability and transparency in the public sector, which eventually help to strengthen good governance. He also stressed on updating audit codes, arranging more audit-related trainings and strengthening professionalism in auditing.
Mr. Mohammad Shafiul Alam said it is necessary to synchronise audit rules some of which have become obsolete. He stressed on compliance with government rules and regulations properly to avoid further emergence of audit objections. He also urged the Secretaries to take steps to address (climbing number of) audit objections.
The participants at the seminar were told that a large portion of the piled up audit objections are very small and can be disposed off if there is no gap in understanding between the auditors and the officials of public entities, and by bringing about some changes to existing rules. Recommendations also came for formulating an audit act, separation of public audit and accounts, increasing number of audit officials, introduction of internal audit system in every ministry, reduction of miscommunication between audited entities and auditors, training of officials so that they better understand existing rules and regulations, among others.
In the seminar, Mr. Rezauddin M Chowdhury, former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) presented the keynote paper. Md. Rafiquzzaman, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation & Tourism; Md. Mohiuddin Khan, Additional Secretary, Cabinet Division; Md. Abual Hossain, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Land, and Mr. Shish Haider Chowdhury, Deputy Secretary, Finance Division participated in the panel discussion. Amongst others, Mr. N M Zeaul Alam, Secretary in Charge (Coordination & Reforms), Cabinet division also participated in the discussion.
Further priority should be given for the expansion of e-procurement, land digitization and union digital centre. The economic benefits would be much higher and service delivery would improve if the government gives further priority to digitization during the ongoing seventh five-year plan between 2016 and 2020, the researchers of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) urged the government policy makers at a seminar on Smart Interventions for 7th Plan Priorities, on 09 January 2017, at the BRAC Centre Inn.
Five different papers on Impact of e-procurement on reducing corruption and promoting competition, by Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow, BIGD; Land Digitization for Smart Governance, by Ms. Sumaiya Kabir Talukder, Katalyst; Justice at the village level: What is the smart policy?, by Ms. Nabila Zaman, BIGD; Strengthening UDCs for Accelerated Public Service Delivery, and RMG Palli and Factory Compliance, by Mr. Hasanuzzaman, Outreach Manager, CCC, were presented at the seminar.
Dr. Shamsul Alam, Member, General Economics Division (GED), Planning Commission, Ministry of Planning and Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i, Prime Minister's Office (PMO), attended the seminar as the Guests of Honour.
Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner, Anti Corruption Commission (ACC); Mr. Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury, Additional Secretary, Finance Division; Mr. AKM Asaduzzaman Patwary, Research Fellow, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI); and Mr. Shahariar Sadat, Academic Coordinator, South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies (SAILS) attended the seminar as panelists.
Dr. Shamsul Alam, however, said the government should be careful about e-security with the expansion of digitization. Bangladesh Bank lost its US$ 81 million reserve fund due to security breach in electronic payment systems with its account holder, the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Hacking affected the recently held election in the US, he added.
On the basis of cost benefit analysis, the paper on UDC said benefit of Tk 8 would come from spending Tk 1 for expanding UDC service for giving service delivery of mobile banking, citizen certificates, application for machine readable passport and payment of utility bills. The paper also said international migration through the UDCs would generate benefit of Tk 22 from spending Tk 1.
In the other papers on land digitization and e-procurement, the BIDG researchers calculated that there would be big returns against less investment.
In 2011, the government introduced electronic government procurement on limited scale. Only 9.5 per cent of the total government procurement was carried through e-tendering.
Discussants, mostly government officials, lauded initiatives of the BIGD. They said ‘enforcement’ of government policy decisions was more important for improving service delivery than expansion of digitization.
Mr. Muslim Chowdhury said, the cost-benefit analysis was not credible as the researchers did not consider the ‘institutional issues’ and continuous ‘engineering process’. Digitization should not be regarded as a magical tool, he added.
Adviser to ‘a2i project’ of the PMO Mr. Anir Chowdhury said enforcement was always important for implementation of the government policy decisions. Giving an example of Chittagong Customs House (CCH), he said the authorities simplified the delivery system without expansion of the digital devices. He said the CCH authorities decreased the checking points to 6 from previous 42 to implement the government decisions in improving the port services.
Anti-corruption commissioner Nasiruddin Ahmed said the land department was out and out a corrupt organisation. Only digitization would not be able to curb corruption in the sector, he said, adding that long-term reform was needed to tackle the problems in the land sector.
The discussants, however, admitted that the topics described by the BIGD researchers in their papers were crucial. They said the government already prioritised almost all the issues in its seventh five-year plan that would expire in 2020.
The seminar was jointly organized by BIGD and CCC which aimed to discuss the findings of research on a series of important governance and justice policy interventions. Distinguished personalities, senior government officials, academics and experts also attended the seminar.
BIGD organises a Seminar on the Political Economy of Social Protection
BIGD organised a seminar titled the Political Economy of Social Protection in Developing Countries on April 7, 2016 at the BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka. Dr. Syed Mansoob Murshed, Professor of the Economics of Peace and Conflict at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University in the Netherlands presented a paper titled on the Determinants of Social Protection Expenditure in a Cross Section of Developing Nations. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD chaired the seminar.
In the presentation Dr. Mansoob discussed the determinants of social protection and public health expenditure in a cross-section of heterogeneous developing countries. He shared that these types of spending are a function of fiscal capacity, the degree of democracy, institutional quality, inequality, internal conflict, trade openness, the presence of financial crises, food insecurity, as well as macroeconomic variables such as inflation and debt servicing that inhibit government expenditure.
Dr. Mansoob added that debt servicing robustly reduces social protection spending, whereas higher per-capita income and fiscal capacity encourage it. Greater openness does not necessarily encourage more spending, nor does increased inflation always inhibit it. Rising democratisation promotes social sector spending, and the presence of greater democracy and fiscal capacity reinforces this effect. More equal societies spend more on protection and public health. Internal conflict and crises variables have more ambiguous effects.Followed by the presentation of Dr. Mansoob, distinguished guests participated in an open discussion.
Among other participants, representatives from BRAC, BRAC University, James P Grant School of Public Health, SANEM, University of Dhaka, IGC, and media attended the seminar.
Citizens have every right to know and oversee where and how their money is being spent
Speakers stressed at a National Seminar on Citizen Engagement in Public Procurement
Citizens have the every right to know and oversee where and how their money is being spent. Citizens also have the right to know government procurement rules and whether the government is following the procurement laws, rules and precedents and maintaining transparency and accountability in terms of purchasing goods and services. Often, it is found that roads and bridges are destroyed within a few days of construction due to low quality work, said Abul Kalam Azad, MP, Chair, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Planning at a Seminar titled ‘Citizen Engagement in Public Procurement’.
Dr. Mirza M Hassan, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Mr. Farid Uddin Ahmed, Mr. Abul Kalam Azad MP, Dr. Zafrul Islam and Mr. Md. Faruque Hossain are seen at the seminar (from left)
CPTU, IME Division of Ministry of Planning and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University co-organised this National Seminar at a Hotel in the capital on 1 December 2016. Farid Uddin Ahmed, Secretary of IMED chaired the seminar where Md. Faruque Hossain, DG, CPTU and Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD made the welcome remarks. Dr. Mirza Hassan, Adjunct Fellow of BIGD and Dr. Zafrul Islam, Senior Procurement Specialist of World Bank Dhaka also spoke at the seminar.
Dr. Zafrul Islam said that public procurement is highly risky and World Bank is happy to cooperate the government to involve citizens with the initiative. According to the law, citizen has the right to public information and citizen engagement in public procurement can ensure transparency and accountability.
Mentioning the country's recent economic growth, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman said that this is the perfect time to engage citizens to strengthen the development process.
Md. Faruque Hossain said we are accountable to the people, and the people will decide what they want to do and how. Mentioning the practical field experiences of citizen involvement in public procurement activities in Rangpur and Sirajganj, Dr Mirza Hasan said the quality of work has improved where our citizen committees have monitored the school and road constructions projects.. Generally, the contractors and the people associated with the construction work are more accountable to the people and contractors are bound to use, the best quality construction materials, although many of the engineers and contractors do not like to be held accountable to the citizens. He also added that political parties felt that involving citizens in public procurement had a negative impact on their level of power.
Participants at the open discussions emphasized that the citizens of the relevant project area need to be involved from the beginning, from the stage of project planning to be well informed about the project, and be trained about the project monitoring issues. They also said that the citizen committee should be developed with honest and expert citizens based on certain criteria and a central expert citizen committee can be built. Citizen involvement in public procurement can open up new horizon, they added.
To improve transparency and accountability in the huge amount of public spending in public procurement, and improve the quality of work and stop the wastage to ensure the best use public money, the government has taken the initiative to involve the citizens in public procurement as a third party. BIGD is providing the technical assistance to the CPTU, IMED to help design and implement the social accountability mechanism that aims to institutionalize and develop this third party monitoring system in the public procurement process in the country.
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