BIGD & Copenhagen Consensus Center’s
Seminar on Smart Interventions for 7th Plan Priorities

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. 

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’.

PPRP National SeminarDr. 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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Sharique-BIGD Seminar on
Ward Shabha Operational Guideline held

Sharique ward shabha seminar
Strong political will is needed to improve the poor functioning of Ward Shabhas. To make it more effective. the authority needs to be transferred to the local government institutions to ensure democratic participation of citizens, said Dr. Salimullah Khan, political analyst and Professor, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), at a BIGD seminar. Dr. Salimullah was addressing the even t as a panelist. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University organized the seminar to disseminate the Ward Shabha Guideline among its stakeholders prepared under the Local Governance Programme SHARIQUE, on Aug 30, 2016 at the Lake Shore Hotel in Capital. The operational Guideline was prepared to assist UP elected representatives with practical suggestions for efficient and effective operations of the Ward Shabha. The seminar was a two-hour session in which the guideline was shared with local government experts, practitioners, academics and policy makers to exchange views with them.

Ward Shabha is an important tool for ensuring social accountability and citizens’ engagement in the overall local governance of UP. It is expected that a well-functioning Ward Shabha will further strengthen the accountability mechanism in UP addressing the local priority needs.

Mr. Kaspar Grossenbacher, Country Director, Helvetas Swiss Inter Cooperation delivered the opening remarks at the event. Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow and Team Leader of Sharique, BIGD delivered the key note speech and presented the issues and also proposed the Guideline related to Ward Shabha.
The Guideline highlights different issues for making Ward Shabha functional including the needs for drafting agenda for Ward Shabha, documenting its proceedings, making appropriate public announcements, deploying volunteers to manage crowds, among other things.

Following the presentation, a lively discussion held under the facilitation of Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, where participants gave their views and shared experiences on the issue. Mr. Ershadul Hauqe, Deputy Secretary, Union Parishad Wing, Local Government Division (LGD), Mr. Swapan Kumar Sarkar, Former Additional Secretary and Director General, Local Government Division, Mr. Azizur Rahman Siddique, Consultant of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), among others spoke at the event.

Mr. Ershadul Hauqe admitted that the Union Parishads have lot of limitations but change was also taking place. For the progress to sustain, he emphasized on citizen’s continuous and active participation. Mr. Swapan Kumar Sarkar said that the Union Parishad needed resource and capacity to conduct Ward Shabhas, which currently it has not.

Elected representatives from the Sharique working areas also shared their experiences of Ward Shabha and expressed their agreement with all the issues highlighted in the presentation.

Concluding the seminar, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, said, “Although there appears to be lots of constraints with regard to the functioning of Ward Shabha in Bangladesh, the situation is not frustrating if we look at the history of our democracy. With increasing political will, we can turn the picture around and ensure a vibrant Ward Shabha that contributes to the functioning of the whole Union Parishad.”

At the end of the programme, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman and Mr. Kaspar Grossenbacher formally handed over the Guideline and two other advocacy briefs titled “Strengthening Women’s Representation in Union Parishad” and “Strengthening Committees and Standing Committees of Upazila and Union Parishads” of Sharique programme to Mr. Ershadul Haque, Deputy Secretary, Union Parishad Wing, Local Government Division (LGD).

Media Coverage

Bangladesh needs to ensure inclusiveness, independence, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of institutions
Speakers stressed at a seminar on SDG 16

SDG Seminar

To ensure strong institutions, four things are needed -- inclusiveness, independence, accountability, and efficiency, said Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, the Executive Director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, BRAC University at a seminar on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (Goal 16 of the SDGs), held on August 24, 2016 at BRAC Centre Inn in the capital. Citing the preamble of the Bangladesh Constitution, he mentioned that, it is high time for the stakeholders to find out the obstacles in strengthening institutions. He identified Parliament, Election Commission, Public Service Commission, Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) as institutions of accountability and the judiciary and law enforcement agencies as institutions of the rule of law. He highlighted several policies that the government has formulated to support implementation of SDGs. They include National Integrity Strategy, Seventh Five-year Plan, Perspective Plan: Vision 2021, and National Sustainable Development Strategy. Goal 16 of SDGs reads "promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels." He added.

Dr Badiul Alam Majumder, Secretary of Citizens for Good Governance (Sujan) and a Panelist of the seminar said that the country requires statutory institutions more active to stop corruption. He also highlighted the role of non-state institutions, including political parties and civil society in reducing corruption effectively.

Dr Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner of Anti-Corruption Commission said that, public servants work for their own interest rather than the interest of the people. Referring to 25 public hearings that ACC have organised across the country, he said the findings are that the people do not get services from the government offices that they are supposed to get. He highlighted weakness of the institutions in ensuring transparency and accountability of the government offices, in combating corruption and in protecting the people's rights. He also referred that “The reports are forwarded to the Parliament, which is supposed to hold discussions on them. But I've never heard that any such discussion has been held." According to him, simplification and digitalisation of the government's services are required to ensure that the people are getting proper services from the public offices.

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) moderated the seminar, while Manzoor Hasan, executive director of South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies, co-chaired the event. Barrister Sara Hossain, Honorary Executive Director of Bangladesh Legal Aid & Services Trust (BLAST) and Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) also attended the seminar as panelists. Among others the programme was attended by the representatives from civil society, academicians, political scientist, government officials, NGOs, INGOs, development partners and media.


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BIGD organizes
Seminar on Aid and Developmental Transformation in Bangladesh

Naomi join 1
Naomi Hossain (left) and the participants included Syed Saad AndaleebSultan Hafeez Rahman,
Wahiduddin Mahmud, Dr. Naila Kabeer (from right) with other participants 

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, organized a Seminar on Aid and Developmental Transformation in Bangladesh on 26 July, 2016 in the BIGD Conference Room In the seminar, Dr. Naomi Hossain, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University, UK discussed her forthcoming book titled The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Surprising Success. The book will be published by the Oxford University Press, UK in February 2017.

In her discussion, Dr Hossain shared that, no longer the world’s ‘basket case’, Bangladesh has become a celebrated example of how aid can bring about development under the most testing conditions. According to Dr. Hossain, rather than open markets providing the motor for development, a social contract to protect the masses against natural disasters and other crises emerged out of the tragedy of the 1974 famine. This social contract helped the state build popular legitimacy and laid resilient foundations without which human development was impossible. Aid supported – but it did not create – these conditions. Lessons from Bangladesh’s disaster-studded history matter more than ever, at this time of climate change and global economic shocks.

Naomi join 2

The Seminar was chaired by Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD. Among others, Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor, BRAC University; Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, Prominent Economist; Dr. Naila Kabeer, Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); Simeen Mahmud, Head (Ad Interim), Gender Cluster & CGST, BIGD; and Dr. Mirza Hassan, Research Fellow of BIGD also spoke at the seminar.


BIGD-Sharique dissemination seminar
Speakers stressed on remedial measures to resolve shortcomings
of local government institutions

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(From left to right) Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, H.E. Christian Fotsch, Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Sultana Kamal and Nasiruddin Ahmed at the seminar

At the local government, while a lot of functions have been given to the UP, these have not been complemented by adequate authority and capacity to raise local revenue  to meet the financial need for discharging these functions. To resolve the gap,  increasing revenues alone will not empower UPs to carry out effective public service delivery. This has to be matched with enhanced capacity for managing local revenues and engaging citizens in planning and budgeting development. Also, while there is interest among the political parties  to  increase  the  involvement  of women and the interest of women and young girls  in  the  local government level,  various  social  norms  and  prejudices   prevent   them   from   joining.   In   addition,   the   culture   and   the   ways   of  functioning  of  the  parties  are  not  women  friendly. This gap needs to be addressed by   the   political   parties   to   expand   their   membership,  develop  their  younger  members  and   ensure   that   women   and   girls   are   encouraged to join and develop their skills and leadership.  The  provision  of  safe  spaces  and  culturally  appropriate  activities  could  help  break the barriers and hesitations that women and their families have. Moreover,  the officials of the service delivery departments of local government level are strongly accountable to their higher authority i.e. to their ministerial hierarchy above instead of being towards UZP elected body for their functions and activities. Although the departments are linked with UZP through Committees and other meetings, these linkages do not ensure any real transfer of power and authority to the UZP in terms of utilisation of departmental funds. 

These findings and recommendations were shared from three qualitative action researches conducted under local governance programme Sharique III  in its project areas on (i) Revenue Mobilisation in Union Parishads (ii) Women’s Representation in Union Parishads and (iii) State of Accountability of the Transferred Departments at the Upazila Parishad and its Consequences for Allocation and Utilisation of Resources: A Study of three Departments, in a seminar organised by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, in cooperation with HELVETAS Swiss Inter cooperation (HSI) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) on July 30, 2016 at Dhaka with the aim to actively engage in the national debate on decentralisation issues.

The seminar began with opening remarks from Ms. Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, Programme Manager of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Afterwards, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, delivered the first presentation of the study titled “Public Finance and Revenue Mobilisation in the Union Parishad.” This study aimed to analyse the system, processes and citizens’ participation in local revenue collection. It looked into UPs’ current status and capacity in revenue mobilisation and assessed the influence of citizens’ participation on local development planning and budgeting. While a lot of functions have been given to the UP, these have not been complemented by adequate authority and capacity to raise local revenue through means such as imposing taxes, assessment, collection etc. to meet the financial need for discharging these functions. The study recommended that increasing revenues alone will not empower UPs to carry out effective public service delivery. This has to be matched with enhanced capacity for managing local revenues and engaging citizens in planning and budgeting development. Following the presentation, Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner, ACC shared his observations and view as a discussant.

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Ms. Maheen Sultan (first from right) is seen delivering her presentation
Ms Maheen Sultan, Visiting Fellow of BIGD presented findings of the study titled “Women’s Representation in Union Parishads” in the second phase of the seminar which was moderated by Ms. Simeen Mahmud, Lead Researcher of Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BIGD. The study found that most of the female members had not been directly involved in politics before elections and most of them did not have a clear idea about what it would mean to be a public representative. Another interesting finding of the study was that women UP members preferred to contest for reserved seats because they would then not have to compete against men, thus reducing competition and reducing election expenses. Political parties and citizens also favour voting for women in reserved seats. However, once elected, the women on reserved seats felt at a disadvantage compared to men in general seats because they felt they did not have access resources to distribute to voters or projects to implement, in proportion to their constituency (three wards). Additionally, the study revealed that many women who have been elected once do not seek re-election a second time contrary to the common hope that they would in fact want to contest for general seats in a second round.
Followed by the presentation,  Dr. Maleka Banu, General Secretary, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad; and Dr. Badiul Alam Mazumder, Secretary, SUJAN discussed on the paper. Views and suggestions were also collected from UP reserved seat Members.
The thirds phase of the seminar hosted a presentation by Dr. Mirza M. Hassan, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD on the study titled “State of Accountability of the Transferred Departments at the Upazila Parishad and its Consequences for Allocation and Utilisation of Resources: A Study of three Departments.” Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman moderated the session and an interactive discussion followed by the presentation. 
30.07.2016 Sharique Seminar  PIC 18 Medium
The study assessed the de jure and precisely de facto nature of accountability relations between officials of the transferred departments (service delivery departments) and elected representatives of the Upazila Parishad (UZP). It also examined the implications of such relationships on the process of resource allocation and utilisation at the local level. The study has revealed that officials of the transferred departments are strongly accountable to their higher authority i.e. to their ministerial hierarchy above. The study shows that mechanisms for such type of accountability do not exist between UZP elected body and the officials of the transferred departments. Also, the transferred officials have very little incentive to be answerable to the UZP for their functions and activities. The study also observed that although the transferred departments are linked with UZP through Committees and other meetings, these linkages do not ensure any real transfer of power and authority to the UZP in terms of utilisation of departmental funds. In practice, the transferred departments continue to be accountable to their respective ministries and follow their rules and regulations.
Prof. Akhter Hussain , University of Dhaka discussed on the paper. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman moderated an interactive discussion followed by the presentation. 
30.07.2016 Sharique Seminar  PIC 20 Small
H.E. Christian Fotsch, Ambassador of Switzerland , as Special Guest also spoke at the event. In her speech, Chief Guest of the programme, Advocate Sultana Kamal urged all to be vocal about the local government reform issues. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman delivered the concluding remarks and vote of thanks.
30.07.2016 Sharique Seminar  PIC 22 Small
Among others, local government experts, representatives from government institutions, academicians, researchers, journalists, development practitioners as well as elected representatives from Sharique project areas also attended the event.
Click below the links to see the wide media coverage, and the research briefs of the research studies shared at the event.