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Effective use of technology and professionalism needed for quick disposal of audit objections, says Mr. M A Mannan MP

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Mr. M A Mannan MP, Honorable State Minister, Ministry of  Finance and Ministry of Planning at a Seminar jointly organized by Cabinet Division and BIGD
Effective use of technology and professionalism needed for quick disposal of audit objections

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Effective use of technology can help in quick disposal of public sector audit objections, said Mr. M A Mannan MP, State Minister of Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning. Citing Government Performance Management System (GPMS), a creative tool which helps to measure performance and subsequently reveal what works and what does not, Mr. Mannan said the Audit department is a key player in ensuring that such useful technology-based tool gets used for the improvement of the system and establishing good governance. He also said professional conduct by the audit officials will play a critical role to restrict the climbing number of audit objections.  He stressed on further simplification of the public audit system.

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Mr. Mannan was addressing a seminar as the Chief Guest titled Facilitating Disposal of Audit Objections on March 12, 2016, co-organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and the Cabinet Division of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, in partnership with the World Bank Group under a project titled ‘Community of Practice on Performance Management in South Asia.’

Mr. Mahbub Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Finance Division attended the seminar as the Special Guest. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD and Mr. N M Zeaul Alam, Secretary in Charge (Coordination and Reforms), Cabinet Division delivered the opening and concluding remarks respectively. Mr. Mohammad Shafiul Alam, Cabinet Secretary chaired the event.

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(Clockwise from top left) M A Mannan MP, Mohammad Shafiul Alam, Mahbub Ahmed, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, N M Zeaul Alam,
Md. Mohiuddin Khan,Md. Rafiquzzaman, Shish Haider Chowdhury, Md. Abual Hossain,Rezauddin M Chowdhury at the event

Mr. Mahbub Ahmed said there was a notion before the 90’s that resource constraint is the main problem for the developing nations. However, in current times, it is the lack of governance that poses the biggest threat. But audits can play a key role in ensuring accountability and transparency in the public sector, which eventually help to strengthen good governance. He also stressed on updating audit codes, arranging more audit-related trainings and strengthening professionalism in auditing. 

Mr. Mohammad Shafiul Alam said it is necessary to synchronise audit rules some of which have become obsolete. He stressed on compliance with government rules and regulations properly to avoid further emergence of audit objections. He also urged the Secretaries to take steps to address (climbing number of) audit objections. 

The participants at the seminar were told that a large portion of the piled up audit objections are very small and can be disposed off if there is no gap in understanding between the auditors and the officials of public entities, and by bringing about some changes to existing rules.  Recommendations also came for formulating an audit act, separation of public audit and accounts, increasing number of audit officials, introduction of internal audit system in every ministry, reduction of miscommunication between audited entities and auditors, training of officials so that they better understand existing rules and regulations, among others.

Seminar COP image 7Participants at the open discussion
 
Earlier in his opening remarks, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman highlighted BIGD’s supportive drive to help strengthen the performance management system of the Government through implementation of a Government Performance Management System (GPMS) in Bangladesh since 2014, in cooperation with the World Bank Group and Cabinet Division, the Government of Bangladesh under a project titled “Community of Practice (CoP) on Performance Management in South Asia”.  He expressed his high hopes that seminars like this will carry forward the dialogue on audit vs accounts management of the Government of Bangladesh and come up with recommendations on how to effectively facilitate Disposal of Audit Objections. 

In the seminar, Mr. Rezauddin M Chowdhury, former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) presented the keynote paper. Md. Rafiquzzaman, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation & Tourism; Md. Mohiuddin Khan, Additional Secretary, Cabinet Division; Md. Abual Hossain, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Land, and Mr. Shish Haider Chowdhury, Deputy Secretary, Finance Division participated in the panel discussion. Amongst others, Mr. N M Zeaul Alam, Secretary in Charge (Coordination & Reforms), Cabinet division also participated in the discussion.

 

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Illicit money and illicit power are influencing the Public Procurement

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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.

Women’s Capabilities in Education and Health improving, but remains insufficient in Economic and Political Field

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Women’s Capabilities in Education and Health improving, but remains insufficient in Economic and Political Field
- says Human Development is South Asia 2016 report

In South Asia, over the last decade and a half, there has been an improvement in women’s social, economic and political empowerment. However worldwide, the region fares better than Sub-Saharan Africa only. Progress has been considerable in improving women’s capabilities through education and health, but remains insufficient in economic and political fields. Beside this, a high prevalence of the incidence of violence against women points to the inadequate implementation of laws, finds the research on ‘Human Development in South Asia 2016: Empowering Women in South Asia’ conducted by Mahbub ul Haq Research Centre (MHRC) of Lahore University of Management Sciences.

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, BRAC University launched the report at a city hotel in Dhaka on May 16, 2017. The research was conducted on Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan.

The report demonstrates that, the overall picture of progress in South Asia not only masks the inequality in opportunity for women both between and within countries, but also across women belonging to different socio-economic, ethnic and religious groups.

The report also suggests that despite overall progress in key indicators, the promise of the MDGs is still unfulfilled and the region needs to intensify its commitment towards meeting the SDGs aiming to complete what the MDGs did not achieve-especially targeting stubborn challenges, such as in female leadership, voice and representation, as well as violence against women.

Speaking on the women’s empowerment, Chief Guest Rasheda K. Choudhury, Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) said, there is a fundamental difference between participation and Partnership. Women in Bangladesh have progressed far in participating in various economic activities but they still lack opportunity at partnership level.

While talking about sexual violence that has happened in recent times, she described the difficulties women face in professional fields. She urged the government to increase budget in research sectors and thanked MHRC for thisreport, which is a reminder that there’s a long way to go for women empowerment.

Mr. M Syeduzzaman, Member, Board of Advisors, MHRC said, the report is a message to revisit and update the gender question in light of development in the world. The report shows the difference among different South Asian countries on gender development, educational progress, health progress, political empowerment and employment of women.

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Earlier, BIGD’s Executive Director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman; Rasheda K. Choudhury; Professor MustafizurRahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD); Ms. Simeen Mahmud, Head Gender Cluster and The Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST) and Dr. Rushidan Islam Rahman, Executive Chairperson, Centre for Development and Employment Research (CDER) launched the report in front of media. Maheen Sultan, Visiting Fellow, BIGD made a presentation on the key finding and recommendations of the report.

Prof. Mustafizur said gender-based violence costs 2.4 per cent of the country's GDP as existing laws remain inactive to protect women from violence. Bangladesh made significant progress since 2000, especially in framing policies and laws, which eased women empowerment. But we have to monitor whether the laws and policies are implemented properly or not. He also mentioned that a large number of activities, performed by women, remain outside the national accounting system.

Simeen Mahmud said that though Bangladesh's economic growth rate was third highest in the world, its public spending in human development remained lower compared to neighbouring countries.

Presenting the study findings, Maheen Sultan said Bangladesh scored 0.917 in GDI to be third among the South Asian countries, while Sri Lanka secured first place scoring 0.948 and Maldives placed second on the list with 0.937 points.

Female secondary school enrollment in the region reached 63.4 per cent from 36.8 per cent within the timeframe while Bangladesh lags behind reaching 57.38 per cent. However, Bangladesh has done really well in female tertiary education enrollment attaining 32.61 per cent comparing to South Asia's average 20.10 per cent in 2013. She also showed that the female life expectancy increased from 64 to 68 years between 2000 and 2013 while the country's overall life expectancy improved to 70.7 years from 63.5 in the same period.

Focusing on the empowerment of poor women, Dr. Rushidan Islam Rahman suggested improving their access to education, skill development and technology.

In conclusion, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman said that political commitment was vital for women empowerment and hoped that the government would maintain the success while focus on addressing the challenges that remain.

To provide more accountable service, we need City Governance - said Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy

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To provide more accountable service, we need City Governance
 – said Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy at a kick-off workshop

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"Most of the budget of the local government is spent by unelected officer, not by the elected representatives. Budget allocations to the elected public representatives should be increased as they are accountable to the people, where the accountability of a DC or MD is very low.” said Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy, Mayor, Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) at a workshop titled Equitable Economic Growth in Narayanganj City.

This kick-off workshop organized under the joint work programme titled Promoting Equitable Economic Growth in Cities as part of a global campaign. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and NCC with the support of Cities Alliance based in Brussels, jointly organized the workshop on May 18, 2017 at Narayanganj.

Dr. Ivy claimed for city governance and raised question, Why DESA, Titas, Police, Magistrates are not under the City Corporation? She urged all to tell the government, 'Give us city government'. If there is no city government, a city mayoral corporation will not be able to do much work. Now we have to request our magistrates, call the police, call to DPDC to get services. But in the system of city government, various organizations could work under an umbrella as a whole. In addition, when these will come under the elected representatives, they will be accountable to public to discharge these responsibilities either for the necessity of the citizen’s service or to keep popularity or due to the fear of the upcoming election.

She told that, these unelected officers need not to answer any questions of the mass people but a local government representative must have to and that is why it is high time to increase the power of local government. She added, though there are a lot of limitations, local government is trying to solve as much problems as they can.

Presenting the 'Institutional Enabling Environment Report (IEER)' Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow, BIGD and Team Leader of the project said, 'Analyzing the political, functional and fiscal arrangements under which Narayanganj City Corporations (NCC) operates this project will assist in facilitating city-level policy actions for enhancing Local Economic Development (LED) which will ultimately promote equitable access to public goods and services."

Dr. Dhiraj Ajay Suri, Regional Advisor for Asia; K Rajivan; Advisor, Cities Alliance; Advocate Mahmudur Rahmna Habib, Chief Executive Officer, NCC and Muhammad Jahangir, Media personality were also present at the workshop among others.

Recognising the roles of cities and the challenges they present in developing countries, the Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and hosted by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), and BIGD have embarked on this project. The goals of this project are (i) to promote equitable access to public goods and services in context of cities’ specific needs and (ii) support growth trajectories increasingly characterised by equity, inclusion and environmental sustainability.

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Well-planned city needs empowered city government

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Well-planned City needs empowered city government
speakers said at a workshop on Equitable Economic Growth in Sylhet

SCC workshop

Participants at a workshop on Equitable Economic Growth in Sylhet City demanded to build Sylhet a planned city through the implementation of master plan prepared by Professor Jamilur Reza Chowdhury. The participants also demanded ensuring clean, healthy and hygienic environment, making open space for playground and other entertainment facilities. They also urged to make the citizens aware regarding their rights and responsibilities. They felt the need for an empowered city government to fulfill the aspirations of city dwellers.

The kick-off workshop was held under the joint work programme titled Promoting Equitable Economic Growth in Cities as part of a global campaign. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) with the support of Cities Alliance based in Brussels, jointly organized the workshop on May 24, 2017 in Sylhet.

Attending as the Chief Guest, Mayor Ariful Haq Chowdhury said that the public representatives allied with the ruling party get support from the Government but the other representatives do not and now it has become a culture which needs to be changed. Coordination and cooperation among the public offices and government organizations is essential before empowering the city corporation, he added. He proposed for a monthly coordination meeting and said that without coordination and cooperation, it is impossible to complete a single task.

Ajay Suri, Asian Regional Advisor, Cities Alliance; Consultant Dr. K. Rajivan, Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow, BIGD and Team Leader of the Project; Mr. Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury, Head of Operations, BIGD; Engineer Ruhul Alam, Chief Engineer, Sylhet City Corporation also delivered their speeches in the event. The programme was moderated by BIGD’s Research Associate S M Gubair Bin Arafat.

Advocate Irfanujjaman Chowdhury, President, Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCC); Aminul Islam Chowdhury, Sammilita Sangskritic Jote; Nasim Hossain, Sylhet City President of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP); senior politician Barrister Aarash Ali; Gourango Patro, President, Adivasi Forum (Forum of Ethnic People); Professor Tahmina Islam, Department of Social Work, Shahajalal University of Science and Technology; senior journalist Ahmed Nur; City Corporation Counselor Sahanara Begum, Dinar Khan and others also shared their valued opinion and suggestions regarding different problems of the city and their short term and long term solutions.

Recognizing the roles of cities and the challenges they present in developing countries, the Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and hosted by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), and BIGD have embarked on this project. The goals of this project are (i) to promote equitable access to public goods and services in context of cities’ specific needs and (ii) support growth trajectories increasingly characterized by equity, inclusion and environmental sustainability.


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Economic development cannot be measured only by GDP said Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud

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Economic development cannot be measured only by GDP
said Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud

As Bangladesh is advancing fast in its efforts to ensure sustaining economic growth, the disparities between the income of workers and employers is also widening day by day. We are noticing the per capita income increasing as well as the economic development of our country, on the other side economic discrimination is also increasing. So, Economic growth should not be measured only by Gross Domestic Production (GDP), said Prof Dr Wahiduddin Mahmud at the workshop on Formal-Informal Labour Nexus and Bangladesh’s Growth.

BIDS RAND

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) organised the workshop at BIDS’s on March 28, 2017 in the capital. The workshop was organised in partnership with the Rand Corporation of the USA and was supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK and the Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) of Germany.

Prof Mahmud went on saying that the labourers are still deprived of a healthy work environment and the dues, benefits and allowances they deserve. He also called upon the government to come forward to take pragmatic steps to help the labour community improve their living standard. Though we often discuss the role of readymade garment sector, we have to formalise other sectors as well, he said.

He also said that the government needs to assist small entrepreneurs so that they can step into the formal sectors.

The outcome of the study suggests that although export-led growth increases employment levels, in terms of employment shares, sectoral growth causes a reallocation away from formal and informal employment towards self-employment, said Dr Krishna Kumar of RAND Corporation where he was presenting his research paper titled ‘the Formal-Informal Labour Nexus and Growth in Bangladesh’ in the first session of the workshop.

Presided over by BIGD Executive Director Dr Sultan Hafiz Rahman, the panelists at the workshop included CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Mustafizur Rahman, Economic Research Group Executive Director Dr Sajjad Zohir, Professor at the Department of Economics of Dhaka University Dr Selim Raihan, BIDS Research Director Dr Kazi Ali Toufique and BIDS senior Research Fellow Dr Nazneen Ahmed.

Dr Shanti Nataraj of Rand Corporation presented the second paper titled ‘What Do Workers Value about Formal Employment- Results from a Worker Survey in Bangladesh’ in the second session of the workshop. "Our studies found that policies that encourage job stability are likely to be beneficial for workers," said Dr Nataraj, adding: "It is also critical for policymakers to pay close attention to poor working conditions, particularly for informal workers."

Dr Minhaj Mahmud, Senior Research Fellow of BIDS said, It is also important to enforce existing regulations about overtime and pay in both formal and informal sectors, at his presentation of the paper titled ‘Employee and Employer Preferences for Worker benefits: Results from a Matched Survey in Bangladesh’ at the workshop.

The research team analysed existing secondary data and also conducted several surveys on employers and employees of small and medium enterprises to find the links between informality and growth while also examining worker transitions between different types of jobs and estimating the valuations of specific job benefits by workers and employers.

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