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Decision-taking process expedited through e-filing, experts say at the Development Economics Conference

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Decision-taking process expedited through e-filing 
Experts say at the Development Economics Conference

"Decision-taking process is getting expedited now as e-filing is taking place in 59 districts. But bringing more transparency in this process, mutual accountability of the people involved in the process will have to be ensured," said Dr. Mashiur Rahman while speaking at the Development Economics Conference jointly organised by BRAC Institute of Governance and Developments (BIGD), BRAC University and International Growth Centre (IGC), at a city hotel on 12 March, 2017.

Prime Minister’s Economic Advisor Dr. Rahman said efficient officials are needed in the government offices for formulation of right policies and their implementation. Otherwise, it is not possible to implement the government's plans properly, he said, adding that at the same time emphasis will have to be given on taking decision quickly.

First and second sessions of the conference were chaired by Dr Shamsul Alam, member of the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission.  


BIGD IGC Conference
Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow of BIGD is presenting his paper at the Conference
 
Dr. Minhaj Mahmud, Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in his research paper 'Infrastructure and Well-Being: Employment Effects of Jamuna Bridge in Bangladesh' showed that several numbers of mega projects are changing rural economies and they are helping in the market integration. Infrastructure developments like a bridge over the river Jamuna are integrating economic factors in Bangladesh that are helping the economy to grow, He said.

Along with the ongoing economic development process the government needs to focus its attention on several other sectors like improving industrial sector, facing catastrophe due to climate change, increasing skill in revenue collection and bringing changes in bureaucracy.

Dr. Asadul Islam an Associate Professor of Monash University presented a paper on 'Social Network, Referrals and Technologies Adoption: Evidence from Randomized Field Experience’ in the conference. He showed that information technology adoption among rural people can increase productivity and can also provide right-time information to farmers about using seeds, plantation and use of instruments for mechanised farming.

In the second session Adnan Khan of IGC presented his paper on 'Incentivizing Bureaucrats through Performance-Based Postings' and Dr. Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University presented on 'General Equilibrium Effects of Emigration on Rural Labor Markets'.

The last session chaired by Dr. Mashiur Rahman, was also marked by three research papers presented by scholars from Ohio State University, Harvard University and of BIGD.
Emily Breza of Harvard University in her research paper on 'Scarcity at the End of the Month - A Field Experiment with Garment Factory Workers in Bangladesh' said through removing bottlenecks in mobile financial transactions among garment workers it is possible to help them in proper money transfer among their family members. Wage payment through electronic system, particularly to bank accounts, encourages workers to save, she added.

Joyce Chen of Ohio State University in her paper on 'Migration and Climate Change: Environmental Vulnerability and Location Choice in Bangladesh' has shown that Bangladesh's coastal people are badly affected due to climate change consequences. She said people are migrating to another places and some who are not migrating are fighting against the changed environment calamities like salinity, drought and others.
Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow of BIGD in his research paper 'Electronic Filing System, Bureaucratic Efficiency and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from Bangladesh' suggested for adopting electronic filing systems in the public offices like deputy commissioner’s office.

Among others the conference was attended by renowned economists, academicians, civil society members and senior public officials from home and abroad.

Media Orientation held on SHARIQUE’s Local Governance Advocacy Issues

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Media Orientation on SHARIQUE’s Local Governance Advocacy Issues held

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BRAC Instituite of Governance and Developent (BIGD), BRAC University, in cooperation with HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (HSI) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) hosted an orientation session on March 7, 2016 for the media to keep the latter abreast of key local government reform issues under the Local Governance Program `SHARIQUE’. The issues that SHARIQUE has identified are functioning of Committees and Standing Committees of Upazila and Union Parishads, building effectiveness of Ward Shobha, increasing women’s participation in local government, and encouraging Union Parishads to keep allocations for their capacity-building. While some of these issues require policy reform, others are more about awareness-raising to strengthen existing policy provisions. Given the context and challenges, SHARIQUE consulted with the media to determine how best to raise awareness and deliver more informed coverage of the subject.

With the Union Parishad elections being ongoing, it was an excellent timing to have journalists from print and electronic media on board to advocate for local government challenges and there was also clear enthusiasm on their part to learn about the topic.

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Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Dr. M Mirza Hassan and Fazlur Rahman at the event

The event began with a brief overview of SHARIQUE by Mr. Fazlur Rahman, Research Specialist of BIGD. Dr. Mirza M Hassan, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD delivered a presentation on advocacy issues mentioned above and the related policy reform  proposals that SHARIQUE has formulated based on its action research and stakeholder consultations. An interesting discussion followed the presentation where journalists expressed interest to know the reasons behind the declining number of women contestants in local government elections, and also shared their views on the pros and cons of the newly introduced party-based election system in local government.  

Ms. Kamrun Nahar from the Financial Express said, while working as a Fellow of the Massline Media Centre in Dhaka, I had the chance to witness Union Parishad Standing Committee meetings. I noticed the inconsistency in the Committee memberships and irregularity of the Committee activities at large. The Union Parishad Secretary assigns Committee memberships  to women Members but this remains largely in paper. Speaking to the women Members, I found out that they don’t even know which Committee they chair. There is huge gap in resources and funds as well.

On the topic of women’s representation in local politics, according to different studies, though initially reserved seats in the local government did prove to be successful in generating women’s candidacy in local government elections, the number of women contestants has declined overtime. Mr. Ikram-ud-Dowla from Bangla News pointed out in this regard, the Representation of the People Order requires 33% of women’s representation in the committees of political parties, but this is not happening in reality.

Mr. Md. Syfullah from UNB said we need to compare the previous Union Parishad election data with that of the present election to see if the party-based election system has any impact on the number of women contestants. Stressing the importance of revenue, he added, local government will not be empowered unless its revenue base is increased. In the absence of financial security, local government institutions will not be able to concentrate on transparency and accountability.

join 1 lavinchi SmallParticipants Journalists at the event

Thanking the participants and concluding the orientation session, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD said, with the kind of eagerness that the media has shown today toward local government reform issues, it is possible to work together and jointly advocate for reform proposals.

Other representatives in the programme included Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow and Team Leader of Sharique, BIGD and Mr. Rafiqul Islam Talukdar, Senior Programme Manager, BIGD.

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Local MPs will not interfere in the workings of local governance institutions, says Mashiur Rahman Ranga

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Local MPs will not interfere in the workings of local governance institutions
- says State Minister Mashiur Rahman Ranga
National Seminar on Local Governance Programme Sharique held
Clash between the Member of Parliament and elected local government officials is the main barrier to ensuring services to the people, said Mashiur Rahman Ranga, State Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives. He made the remarks while addressing a national conference on Local Governance Programme of Sharique project as the chief guest jointly organized by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), HELVETAS Swiss Interco operation, Bangladesh and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) in a hotel of the city on December 7, 2016.
Sharique Conference 2016
He said "There is no clash between Members of Parliament and locally elected government representatives to provide good services to the people. These components should work complementing each other for the betterment of the country." Local MPs will not interfere in the workings of local governance institutions, he added.
 
"Our government is working to strengthen and empower the local government. We need more time to ensure the empowerment of the local government beyond the party interest. As part of our empowerment of the local government, we have already ensured accountability to finish the project in due time," said Mashiur Rahman Ranga.
 
State minister for LGRD also said they will discuss the increase of the honorarium of the elected members of local government and create new posts for local government. He also advised to work for increasing revenue in their own way as they can spend more for the people.
 
Emphasizing on the local government system Mani Shankar Aiyer, former Panchayet Minister of India said that “Both democracy and development facilitate each other. If development is not equitable it will pose a threat to democracy. Hence what is required is inclusive growth through inclusive governance and this can be done by allowing more autonomy to local government. The former member of Lok Shabha and Rajya Shabha in India also shared experience of the performance and challenges of the local government of different Indian provinces. He also stressed the need for greater participation of women in local government to bring equitable development. He also said "It's a big challenge to coordinate the root level elected member with government. The successful government can manage this."
 
 Attending as the Special Guest, Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh Christian Fotsch praised Bangladesh for ensuring the rights of women to vote so early. Though his country gained independence almost 400 years ago, the right to vote for the women was ensured only in 1971.
 
The programme was attended by Mr. Md. Shah Kamal, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, Kaspar Grossenbacher, Country Director of HELVETAS Swiss Interco operation, Bangladesh; Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, Country Representative, The Hunger Project, Dr. Tofail Ahmed, local governance expert and Ms. Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, Programme Manager of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), among others. Other participants in the programme included academics, elected representatives from Sharique working areas and NGO partners active in local governance sector.
The event was held to celebrate ten years (2006-2016) of Sharique and also to launch a step-by-step guide that has captured Sharique’s ten years of experience in the local governance sector. The objective of launching this guide is to make the practical lessons learned from the programme available to other stakeholders, including Union Parishad themselves, as well as a range of public and non-governmental partners. The guidance is designed to offer systematic tips and advice to improve accountability, citizen’s participation and effectiveness in development planning and budgeting at the Union Parishad level.
 
In the second half of the day-long event three presentations were made on the role of Union Parishad in disaster management by Mr. Md. Shah Kamal, on budget coverage of Upazila and Union Parishad by Mr. Md. Habibur Rahman, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance and on sources of revenue of Union Parishad by Mr. Nurul Islam, Research Officer, NILG. A panel discussion and feedback session were held under the facilitation of Mr. Md. Shah Kamal in which locally elected representatives shared their experiences on the themes presented earlier. 

Citizens’ engagement in public procurement is a demand of time, says Planning Minister

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9th Meeting of Public-Private Stakeholders’ Committee
Citizens’ engagement in public procurement is a demand of time,
says Planning Minister
 
Pic 1  PPSC 9th
 
It is a demand of time to involve citizens in public procurement process and monitor those by them (citizens) as public money is used in procurement, says Mr. A H M Mostafa Kamal, Planning Minister and Chairperson of the Public-Private Stakeholders’ Committee (PPSC) in its ninth meeting. To ensure transparency and accountability in procurement process, they should be empowered and made aware of the process, he added.
 
He also recommended proper utilisation of public money through optimal use of resources, saying that penalty should be ensured if there is any breach of contracts.
 
The Minister was addressing as the Chair of the 9th meeting of PPSC, held on 4 February, 2016 at NEC Conference room, Planing Commission Campus, Agaragon, Dhaka. The Minister in the meeting also launched a newsletter titled 'Public Procurement Watch'. The BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) of BRAC University 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 of the country.
 
Pic 3 PPSC 9th
 
World Bank's Procurement Specialist Dr. Zafrul Islam; BIGD, BRAC University Executive Director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman; IMED Secretary Md Shahid Ulla Khandaker; LGD Secretary Abdul Malek; Planning Secretary Tarique-ul-Islam; Director General of CPTU Md. Faruque Hossain; CPD Executive Director Dr. Mostafizur Rahman; representatives from LGED, WASA, WDB, IBA of Dhaka University, media, and business community also spoke at the meeting.
 
It is time to think about the formation of watchdog, how it would be formed and the selection process, Mr. Malek said suggesting participation of local representatives in ensuring the quality of work. Dr.  Mustafizur Rahman recommended involvement of local people and local government in public procurement monitoring mechanism saying that “all politics and developments are local.”
 
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Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Mr. A H M Mostafa Kamal and Dr. Mirza M. Hasan at the meeting
 
Speakers stressed the need for more involvement of people in both procurement and monitoring process to ensure transparency and accountability in the execution of government's development projects. Information on the projects such as nature of project work and duration, expenditure, starting time should be made public on website, the meeting recommended. Other recommendations include empowerment of people and formation of project area-based monitoring committee and e-tendering to ensure transparency and accountability in procurement activities.
 
Earlier, Dr. Mirza M. Hasan, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD delivered a presentation on mechanism of citizen engagement in government's procurement activities.
 
PPSC is 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 senior government officials, to institutionalize external monitoring and citizen engagement in different stages of public procurement. The committee was reconstituted recently, increasing number of PPSC members to 43 from 27, to engage 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.
 
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Divisional Workshop on Public Procurement held in Chittagong

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Divisional Workshop on Public procurement held in Chittagong

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Chief Guest, Special Guest, and other distinguished guest at the inaugural session of the workshop

A workshop titled ‘How to Engage Citizens and Ensure Social Accountability in Public Procurement’ organized jointly by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU), IME Division of Planning Ministry was held on Thursday, 28 April 2016, at the Hotel Agrabad, Chittagong. The Chittagong Divisional Workshop was held as a way to raise awareness amongst citizens and receive feedback from the local level on the Third Party Engagement piloting program. Mr. FaridUddin Ahmed Chowdhury, Honorable Secretary, IME Division, Planning Ministry and Dr. Zafrul Islam, Lead Procurement Specialist, World Bank, attended the workshop as the Chief Guest and Special Guest respectively. Additional Deputy Commissioner (LA) of Chittagong, Md. Doulatuzzaman Khan presided over the workshop. Md. Aziz Taher Khan, Director, CPTU delivered the welcome speech at the event. Among others, Abdul Mannan, Member, Socio-Economic Infrastructure Division, Planning Commission and Dr. Mirza Hassan, Team Leader of Social Accountability Component of PPRP-II spoke at the event.

During the discussion session, Md. Aziz Taher Khan, Director, CPTU urged the participants to provide feedback so that the strategy for citizen engagement can be further improved.Dr. Mirza Hassan raised the question on reforming legal framework on citizen engagement in PPRP. He said, citizen and youth committee and project-orientedcommittee would be working as ‘watch dogs’ of the project. Dr. Zafrul Islam, Lead Procurement Specialist, World Bank, said that citizens have to rethink their ‘self accountability’ for the betterment of the society in everyday life rather than blaming the government for everything. Abdul Mannan, Member, Socio-Economic Infrastructure Division, Planning Commission, elaborated on thenecessity of openness, transparency and accountability in the delivery of public services. Chief Guest, Mr. FaridUddin Ahmed Chowdhury, Secretary, IME Division of Planning Ministry, argued that citizens’ ready engagement is necessary to ensure the sustainability of this project. Other speakers included, Md. Hamidul Islam, a Chittagong based journalist, E.K.M Oliullah, General Secretary of theKarnafully Gas Distribution Company and various local engineers, contractors and professors. 70 participants attended the event from different government and non-government institutions.

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The workshop consisted of a group session where participants were requested to report their feedback on the third party monitoring strategy. The participants were split into three groups, with each group presenting their recommendations at the end of the exercise. The workshop held in Chittagong is the third divisional workshop organized by BIGD. These workshops will culminate in a national seminar to be held towards the end of this year.

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Group activity session

BIGD is providing the technical assistance to the CPTU 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 of the country. Citizen’s engagement in public procurement will improve the quality of works, ensure social accountability and create an environment for the best use of public money. The involvement of citizens in public procurement can also identify the irregularities and errors of procurement. To make people aware about the existing rules and regulations of procurement process, engaging campaigns are required to involve citizens in the process.

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Divisional Workshop on Public Procurement held in Rangpur

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Divisional Workshop on Public Procurement held in Rangpur

Rangpur Workshop PPRP II image 4

A divisional workshop titled “How to Engage Citizens and Ensure Social Accountability in Public Procurement” was held on Tuesday, 19 July 2016, at Begum Rokeya Auditorium, RDRS Bangladesh, Rangpur, jointly organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU), IME Division of Planning Ministry. The objective of the workshop was to increase awareness amongst citizens and receive feedback from the local level on the Third Party Engagement piloting program.

Md. Faruk Hossain, Director General of CPTU was present as the Chief Guest. Md. Rahat Anowar, Deputy Commissioner of Rangpur presided over the workshop. Md. Shafiul Alam, Communication and Social Awarness Consultant of CPTU, delivered the welcome remarks at the event. Md. Rafiqul Islam Talukder, Senior Program Manager of BIGD spoke at the event about the three dimensions of accountability, vertical, horizontal and downward, linking the downward accountability with social accountability and citizen’s involvement in the public procurement process.

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Md. Azizur Rahman, LGED Officer, Rangpur and Dr. Mirza Hassan, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD and Team Leader of the Social Accountability Component of PPRP-II, delivered a brief overview of the Social Accountability component of the project and how BIGD is facilitating the dissemination of information regarding the project and shared the field experiences in relation to mobilization of the citizen committees.

Followed by the plenary session, a group-work session was organized. It was divided into four groups and each group was provided with three sets of questions regarding existing laws, strategy of citizen involvement and the question of long-term sustainability of the project. The recommendations and suggestions that came from threadbare discussion of different groups were wide-ranging and constructive. Mr. Ekram Hossain, Senior Manager (Communications) and Mr. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Talukdar, Senior Program Manager, both from BIGD facilitated both the plenary and the group-work sessions.

During the group discussion, most of the participants agreed that there should be citizen engagement in the public procurement system. They also highlighted that it will bring more transparency, accountability in the procurement process and help to improve the work quality. It is essential to provide proper training regarding technical issues to the citizen committees before they begin their monitoring process. Government officials talked about the current E-GP system, including the benefits and challenges of having this digital framework. They suggested that the citizen committees should be engaged in the project implementation stage but not in tendering stage. However, contractors are not interested in citizen involvement in procurement because they can hamper their work progress and affect the quality. Others present during the workshop argued that because monitoring of public procurement requires technical knowledge, citizens should not be involved in the process unless they have the essential technical expertise.

More than 90 participants attended the event, including government officials, engineers, academics, contractors, political party members, journalists, civil society members, partner NGOs (ASOD and ESDO) to take part in the discussion and share their opinions.

BIGD is providing the technical assistance to the CPTU 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 of the country. Citizen’s engagement in public procurement will improve the quality of works, ensure social accountability and create an environment for the best use of public money. The involvement of citizens in public procurement can also identify the irregularities and errors of procurement. To make people aware about the existing rules and regulations of procurement process, engaging campaigns are required to involve citizens in the process.

Media Coverage (Click below the links):

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