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We must focus more on quality than quantity of development works to avoid higher maintenance cost says Planning minister

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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.

BIGD signs MoU with Access to Information (a2i) Programme

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BIGD signs MoU with Access to  Information (a2i) Programme
a2i 4 Small
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Access to Information (a2i) Programme of Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on 21 June, 2016 at Prime Ministers Office, TDhaka. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, and Mr. Kabir Bin Anwar, Director General (Admin), PMO and Project Director, A2i programme signed the agreement.
a2i 3 Small
Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman and Mr. Kabir Bin Anwar are seen (From left to right) signing the MoU
Under the MoU, BIGD will be conducting impact assessments and evaluations and Cost Benefit Analysis of a2i’s various programs and inititiaves. BIGD will also conduct research on ideas to provide service through a2i programme. BIGD and a2i will also jointly organize internal workshops quarterly to discuss areas of interest, innovations and new directions.
a2i joined
Followed by the MoU signing ceremony, a discussion meeting held between delegation from BIGD and officials from a2i. In the discussion, the importance of administrative data for research purposes are stressed. It is further highlighted that such data generated in various public agencies including Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) can be shared through A2I in digitized format.
Among others, Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Dr. Md. Shanawez Hossain, Mohammad Ashikur Rahman, Researchers from BIGD, and senior officials from a2i were present at the event.

Training on National Income Accounting

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Training on National Income Accounting

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University in association with the General Economics Division (GED) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)  organized a two-day long training programme on ‘National Income Accounting’ on 5-6 November 2016 at BRAC Center, Dhaka under the Sustainable and Inclusive Planning (SSIP) project.

National Income training
Mr. Fakrul Ahsan, Prof. Dr. Shamsul Alam, Dr. Sultan hafeez Rahman and Ms. Shaila Khan are seen at the training (From Left)

The core purpose of the training programme was to enhance the knowledge-base of the policy makers about the concept and methodology of the national income accounting of Bangladesh for better policy making. This two-day course also aimed to assist the government officials appreciates the practical limitations of constructing the national income accounts from a wide range of sources of data. The training also intended to provide the participants with a comprehensive knowledge about the quality of data and data generating process.

The inaugural session of the training programme was graced by the presence and intellectual inputs of Prof. Dr. Shamsul Alam, Member (Senior Secretary), General Economics Division (GED), Planning Commission; Ms. Shaila Khan, Senior Programme Advisor (Assistant Country Director), UNDP Bangladesh; Mr. Fakrul Ahsan, Project Manager, SSIP Project, UNDP Bangladesh; and Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, BRAC University.

National income accounting measures the prosperity of an economy and also helps compare national income across countries. While conceptually simple and elegant, the process of measurement of national income is a complex and sophisticated exercise. There are gaps and discrepancies between the text-book theories and practical approach of measuring national income. Lack of sound understanding of these practical methods results in breeding confusion, misconception and mistakes in discourse on national income. Therefore, it is imperative to expand the knowledge-base of the policy makers on this particular issue so that they can engage themselves in policy making and debate more effectively.

A total of 20 public planners from General Economics Division (GED), Planning Commission (PC), Bangladesh Bank (BB) and Finance Division (FD) enhanced their knowledge on concept and methodology of the national income accounting thru hands on training.

The training was conducted by academician, economists and statisticians who have vast experience in computing national income accounts of the country. Dr. Bazlul H. Khondker, Professor, Dhaka University; Mr. Abul Kalam Azad, Director, National Accounting Wing, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS); Mr. Zobdul Hoque, Former Director, National Accounting Wing, BBS; Mr. Tufail Ahmed, Deputy Director, National Accounting Wing, BBS; and Mr. Abdul Khaleque, Deputy Director, National Accounting Wing, BBS trained the GoB officials through eight comprehensive lectures.

A certificate awarding ceremony was organized at the closing day of the training programme. Mr. Naquib Bin Mahbub, Chief, GED and NPD, SSIP project handed over the certificates among the participants for successful completion of the training. Mr. Fakrul Ahsan, Project Manager, SSIP Project, UNDP Bangladesh; and Mr. Shanawez Hossain, PhD, Research Fellow and Head (Urbanization, Climate Change and Environment Cluster), BIGD, BRAC University were also present at the certificate awarding ceremony.


Leading experts and scholars from BRAC family brief and consult BIGD's Strategic Plan

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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.

Citizens have every right to know and oversee where and how their money is being spent, says Abul Kalam Azad

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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 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 in 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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Seminar on Smart Interventions for 7th Plan Priorities

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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.