Seventh Regional Meeting of the South Asian Think Tanks held
RM7 Slide

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) jointly organized the seventh Regional Meeting of the South Asian Think Tanks based on the theme Remaining Relevant in the Policy World: Sustainability Challenges of Think Tanks. 18 South Asian Think Tanks (SATTs) based in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar came together at the meeting to exchange ideas and learnings, discuss challenges and opportunities, share successes and most importantly to develop a post-Thonk Tank Initiative (TTI) strategy in order to sustain the network as the eight years of TTI support is coming to an end. Besides, donor and private sector representatives, development partners, special guests and other policy stakeholders also attended the meeting.

The three-day long meeting, held on 5-7 February 2018, explored how the support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to SATTs has strengthened their capacities in terms of generating new knowledge and becoming more effective in policy engagement. The SATTs also discussed how they will continue to pursue policy engagement in the coming days once TTI withdraws its support to them.

Attending as the Guest of Honor, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairman, BRAC told that Think tanks have a crucial role to play since their primary function is to help governments and policymakers understand, and make informed choices about, issues of significant domestic and international concern and relevance. In carrying out this role, think tanks are often required to negotiate and perform a mediating function between the government and the public that helps to build trust and confidence in public officials.

“Thus, by challenging the conventional wisdom, standard operating procedures and business as usual of bureaucrats and elected officials, think tanks can serve as informed and independent voices in the policy arena. In order to do this well, they must strike a balance between research, analysis and outreach - a task that is becoming increasingly challenging in the present fast-changing national, regional and global environment”, he added.

Prof Rehman Sobhan, Board Chairman of CPD and the chair of the opening session told Think Tanks have a wider responsibility to the society at large. Think tanks independence is critical for credibility and shaping own agendas whether in dealings with governments or funders.

Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD, in his welcome speech said, Think Tanks have to come up with more innovative ideas. He urged to all TTs that “We all should be very energetic to utilize our resources. Collectively we can do a lot further and we need to collaborate in order to sustain our own strength and development”.

“Our world, our region and our countries are increasingly looking inward, these are dangerous trends. Independent thinking was never more necessary to engage policy makers and influence public opinion to correct these trends.” he added. Dr. Rahman also welcomed the participants of the Myanmar.

While looking for fund Think Tanks need to be very careful in being engaged with private or corporate sector, says Dr. Fahmida Khatun, ED of CPD.

Mr. Andrew Hurst, Program Leader, Think Tank Initiative (TTI) of IDRC summarized the decade long programme experience with the TTI funded southern think tanks.

The three-day long meeting included nine thematic sessions focusing on how the support from IDRC to the SATTs strengthened their capacities to generate new knowledge and becoming more effective in policy engagement. It also focused how the TTs would continue pursuing their policy engagement in the coming days once TTI withdraws its support to them.

The meeting ended with a consensus that the collaboration among the SATTs towards regional development will be continued with the commitment of sharing collective knowledge and resources. All the think tanks unanimously agreed that an association of Southern Think Tanks is needed to give stronger voice to the region.

TTI, a multi-donor programme funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), managed by Canada’s IDRC, is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of independent policy research institutions in the developing world.
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Illicit money and illicit power are influencing the Public Procurement
Experts said at the 12th PPSC meeting
12thPPSC


Illicit money and Illicit power are badly influencing public procurement. The procuring entities are facing various challenges during implementation of projects, especially at field level. Absence of a proper monitoring system of public procurement is one of the reasons, for which Bangladesh cannot ensure proper implementation of projects and its quality.

These were some of the observations of the participants at the 12th meeting of Public Private Stakeholders' Committee (PPSC) under Public Procurement Reform Project II of Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) under Ministry of Planning. The meeting was held on the 8th June 2017 at the NEC Conference Room, Planning Commission Campus in the capital, which was facilitated by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University.

Team leader of the social accountability component of PPRP-II Dr. Mirza M Hassan presented the findings of the monitoring report of pilot projects completed in two districts - Rangpur and Sirajganj - by the citizens committees. He also proposed scaling up the project on a national level.

He said the citizens committees monitored the textbook print quality and distribution of text books in 28 schools in the two districts at the first day of the year. They also monitored 19 projects (11 road constructions and 8 school building constructions) in these areas where the committees failed to monitor two projects out of the 19 due to interference by socially and politically influential persons.

Beyond the engagement of the Citizen Committees, the project was also able to successfully mobilize local communities for monitoring projects which led to conceptual and strategic innovation of a Site Specific Citizen Monitoring idea which we plan to replicate nationally, he added.

Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) Secretary in Charge Md. Mofizul Islam, who also presided over the meeting, said, most of the citizens do not know that their money is being spent in public procurement. Increasing people’s awareness regarding public procurement will reduce the influence of Illicit money and Illicit power. The monitoring only by IMED personnel is not enough, and the citizens should have a role in monitoring the development projects. He added that proper monitoring of public procurement is an important issue for successful implementation of the projects. The government wants to ensure cent per cent transparency and accountability in public procurement.

In response to a question on formation of Citizens Committee he said, “Citizens committees should be formed with those persons, whose morals and ethics are above question. We need citizens' monitoring in purchasing of goods also, as we want to get value for money."

CPTU Director General Md. Faruque Hossain said there are various challenges in monitoring of the public projects by citizens committees, as there is no legal provision in this regard. If the government finds third party monitoring beneficial, the relevant rules will be changed to give it a legal basis.

Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD; Mr. ANM Mustafizur Rahman, World Bank; Dr. Kazi Ali Toufique, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS); Mr. Ahmed Najmul Hussain, Administrative Director, BRAC; Engr. S. M. Khorshed Alam, Director, Bangladesh Association of Construction Industry; Mr. Ziaur Rahman, General Secretary, Economic Reporters’ Forum also made their valuable remarks and participated in discussion at the meeting. 

The Public-Private Stakeholders’ Committee (PPSC) has been formed under the auspices of the Public Procurement Reform Project-II (PPRP-II) with representatives from business community, think tanks, and civil society organizations along with government officials, to institutionalise external monitoring and citizen engagement in different stages of public procurement.
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We must focus more on quality than quantity of development works
to avoid higher maintenance cost
said Planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal at the 11th PPSC meeting

11th ppsc meeting


"The lion's share of the budgetary allocation is spent for maintenance. We have to reduce wastage and show zero tolerance. We must focus more on quality than quantity of development works to avoid higher maintenance cost.” said Planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal. He advised to replicate citizens' engagement in public procurement process in at least 50 representative upazilas out of the total 491. He also pointed out that effective monitoring through citizens' engagement can reduce project cost and ensure quality.  The planning minister also called for forming area-wise citizens' committee where community and opinion leaders will be the members to monitor various government projects. He was speaking at the 11th meeting of 'Public-Private Stakeholders Committee' (PPSC) under public procurement reform project II of the Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) at the NEC conference room in the city on 9 February 2017. BIGD, in association with the World Bank (WB) and Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) of IME Division, Ministry of Planning, organised the programme. At present, the project has been piloted in four upazilas of Sirajganj and Rangpur districts. As the broad objective of the PPRP-II is to improve performance of the public procurement system, the meeting discussed learning from the national seminar ‘Citizen Engagement in Public Procurement’ and provides a final update on the field activities.

Mr Kamal said the prime minister has the directive regarding citizens' engagement. There should be identical colour and signboard with description of all development projects; he suggested referring to the PM's instruction. Ruling out various objections about projects of the government, the minister said no project plan is approved without feasibility study and much discussion. "First we see whether the project is in conflict with the 7th five year plan," he said, adding, needs assessment is of course done for any project. "If we can start this practice, this will bring benefit and no harm," he said.

BIGD adjunct fellow Mirza M Hassan made a presentation on experience of pilot projects in four upazilas. He said citizens' engagement needs to be formalised under a legal framework to avoid unnecessary harassment of any party during the project work. It was also observed during the discussion meeting with engineers that project specification was not followed meticulously during implementation stage. Mr Hassan proposed that the pilot projects should be scaled up to district level in a more complex society to ensure quality of project implementation and needs assessment.

Chief procurement specialist of the World Bank, Dhaka Zafrul Islam said citizens' engagement is a new concept although it was thought to be a buzz word a few years back. He noted that citizens' engagement in projects can ensure good governance. There are problems at grassroots level while implementing policy-level decisions, he said. It is necessary to know what the field-level people think about projects and awareness should be created among the field-level officers, he added.

Among others, Md. Faruque Hossain, Director General, CPTU; Syed Rashedul Hossen, Deputy Secretary, Finance Division, Ministry of Finance; Md. Mahmudul Hoque, Joint Secretary, IMED; Md. Rois Uddin, Additional Secretary, LGD,; Md. Nazrul Islam, Member, Planning Commission; Md. Fazlur Rahman, Director Programme, DPE; Brig. Gen. Md. Parvvez Kabir, Director, CMSD; Munshi basher Ahmed, Director, Project Planning, PDB; Mohammad Eklas Uddin, Director of Finance, EWU, Abdul Ahad, Director, Finance and Admin, TIB and Engr. S M Khorshed Alam, Vice President, BACI also shared their observations and suggestions at the meeting. 

PPSC is largely focusing on the key sectoral ministries and targeting their implementing agencies, including Roads and Highways (RHD), Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Rural Electrification Board (REB) and Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB). The PPRP-II has four components: 1) furthering policy reform and institutionalizing capacity development, II) strengthening procurement management at sectoral level and Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU)/ Implementation Moni-toring and Evaluation Division (IMED), III) introducing e-Govern-ment (e-GP) behavioural change communication and social accountability.
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10th PPSC Meeting
All project related documents going forward will be in Bangla, with English translations,
says Planning Minister

‘We are committed to ensuring the welfare of the citizens of this country, and therefore, our activities, however small or big, should reflect that dedication in serving the people,’ said A.H.M Mustafa Kamal FCA, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Planning and Chairperson of Public Private Stakeholders Stakeholders Committee (PPSC) in its 10th meeting on August 28, 2016 at the NEC Conference room, Planning Commission, Sher-E-Bangla Nagar of the capital. He further added that all project related documents will be in Bangla going forward, with English translations available in case foreign individuals are involved in any project. The meeting was organized by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) of BRAC University and hosted by the Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU).

Architect Jalal Ahmed of the IEB; Mustafa Jabbar, BASIS; Rezwanul Alam, TIB; Towfiqul Islam Khan, CPD; Anwara Begum, BIDS; Syful Kabir, IBA, and Dr. Tapash Kumar Biswas, PKSF, were other PPSC members who attended the meeting. Dr. Zafrul Islam, Lead Procurement Specialist, World Bank and the core BIGD team of the Social Accountability Component of PPRP II were present during the meeting. Among others, the meeting was attended by other members of the PPSC, which included high officials from LGD, LGED, ERD, PWD, BPDB.

Anwara Begum of BIDS, suggested that women be encouraged to take part in project monitoring. Dr. Zafrul Islam encouraged the use of social media for better monitoring of project activities. Syful Kabir, IBA, suggested the formation of a central monitoring committee on top of local Citizen Committees. Mr. Nasiruddin Khan of ERD, expressed his belief that citizen engagement can bring about greater transparency and accountability. Before the open discussion, Dr. Mirza Hassan presented briefly on the progress of the pilot and shared important findings from the field.

PPSC is formed under the auspices of the Public Procurement Reform Project-II (PPRP-II) with representatives from the business community, think tanks, and civil society organizations along with senior government officials, to institutionalize external monitoring and citizen engagement in different stages of public procurement. The committee was reconstituted recently, increasing the number of PPSC members from 27 to 43, to engage in high-level policy dialogue which will contribute to development of strategic goals regarding procurement reform at field level and generate discussions at different national and regional forums.

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 a third party monitoring system in the public procurement process in the country. Md. Faruque Hossain, Director General, CPTU, moderated the meeting.

 MEDIA COVERAGE

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BIGD-CPTU Contract Signing Ceremony to implement PPRP II (Extension phase) held

PPRP Contract Signing Ceremony 1
Mr. Md. Faruque Hossain, DG, CPTU; Mr. Zafrul Islam, World Bank; Mr. Md. Shahid Ulla Khandaker, IMED; Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, ED, BIGD, &
Mr. RafiqulIslam Talukdar at the signing ceremony (From left to right) 

BIGD, BRAC University and the Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) under the Implementation Monitoring & Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Ministry of Planning (MoP), came together at a ceremony on July 23, 2015, to officially sign the contract for the Public Procurement Reform Project (PPRP) II, under which BIGD will act as the Social Accountability Consultant to help design and implement the social accountability mechanism that aims to institutionalize and develop a Third Party Monitoring System (TPM) in the public procurement process in the country. Based on the lessons learned from the phase II of PPRP, and in consultation with CPTU and the World Bank, BIGD has reformulated the existing Public-Private Stakeholders Committee (PPSC). It will also help ensure effective functioning of the committee so that it can provide policy inputs to strengthen the public procurement system of the country. At the same time, it is responsible for implementing a public procurement monitoring and accountability mechanism by engaging citizen groups as a third party in the public procurement system. This will include selecting an implementing partner in the field level and to build their capacity in public procurement issues so that this agency can ensure TPM engagement in the procurement system at the local level.

Mr. Md. Shahid Ullah Khandaker, Secretary of IMED; Mr. Md. Faruque Hossain, Director General of CPTU; Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD and Ms. Parveen Akther, Director of CPTU were present during the ceremony. Dr. Zafrul Islam, Lead Procurement Specialist, The World Bank; Mr. Md. Nasimur Rahman Sharif, Deputy Director and Mr. Shafiul Alam, Communication and Social Awareness Consultant, both from CPTU; Md. Rafiqul Islam Talukdar and Ms. Kaneta Zillur from BIGD were also present at the signing ceremony.

PPRP-II is being implemented to ensure sustainability of the procurement reform programme. CPTU/IMED is the key implementing agency for the project while the sectoral target agencies are responsible for implementation of procurement management and monitoring actions at the agency level. The objective of the Second Public Procurement Reform Project in Bangladesh is to improve performance of the public procurement system progressively in Bangladesh, focusing largely on the key sectoral ministries and targeting their implementing agencies.

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BIGD’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020
Leading experts and scholars from BRAC family briefed and consulted
 
7 Institutional Strategic Plan Meeting
(From left to right) Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Dr. A. Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury and
Barrister Manzoor Hasan at the event

Scholars and top executives from BRAC and BRAC affiliated institutes attended a consultation meeting organised by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, held on May 24, 2016 at the BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka.The purpose of the meeting was to share the key features of BIGD’s draft Strategic Plan 2016-2020 with fellow colleagues from BRAC family and incorporate their feedback.

2 Institutional Strategic Plan Meeting
Glimpses from the group work at the event

BIGD Executive Director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman welcomed the distinguished participants and shared a brief overview of the draft strategic plan. Dr. A. Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, Member, Advisory Council, BIGD, and Vice Chair, BRAC moderated the session. Followed by a presentation on the strategic plan, the participants provided their observations, inputs and feedback through different sessions i.e group work and Q/A.

Among others, BIGD senior staff participated at the meeting.

3 Institutional Strategic Plan Meeting
Glimpses from the group work at the event

Initiated in early 2015, the draft Strategic Plan has been prepared through a series of consultations i.e. in-house retreat and internal meetings, consultations with stakeholders etc. From now up to July, 2016, few more consultations are planned with various stakehold groups before the Strategic Plan is finalized by July.

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