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.
BIGD-CPTU Contract Signing Ceremony to implement PPRP II (Extension phase) held
Mr. Md. Faruque Hossain, DG, CPTU; Mr. Zafrul Islam, World Bank; Mr. Md. Shahid Ulla Khandaker, IMED; Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, ED, BIGD, &
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.
Seminar on Aid and Developmental Transformation in Bangladesh
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.
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.
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.
Divisional Workshop on Public Procurement held in Rangpur
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.
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.
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