A South Asia Director of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on Monday said the World Bank’s return to Padma bridge project depended on its external panel’s ‘satisfaction’.
“If external panel is not satisfied, the World Bank will not be satisfied. If they are not satisfied, they will not come back,” Tomohide Ichiguchi, who oversees JICA affairs in Bangladesh and Nepal, told bdnews24.com in an interview at the organisation’s headquarters in Tokyo.
He said the global lender is yet to come back, “they only showed the intent to reconsider” after their lot of efforts.
But the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) in Bangladesh should move quickly. “They’re still in inquiry stage. They didn’t officially start investigation.”
An external panel of the World Bank is currently in Dhaka to assess the progress Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) has made in investigating the corruption allegations in the Padma bridge project.
The three-member panel led by Marino Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, arrived in Dhaka on Saturday on their second visit after the first one in October.
The World Bank on Sunday also made it clear that the Padma bridge fund would not be disbursed until the ACC takes actions against the ‘corruption perpetrators’.
“The ACC has to take actions and it’s in their hand to take the actions in order to make the bridge a reality,” Bangladesh Country Director of the Bank Ellen Goldstein had said after its external panel had a meeting with the ACC in Dhaka.
Raising the allegations in the $2.9 billion project, the World Bank on June 29 cancelled its pledged $1.2 billion credit for the 6-km bridge with rail and road communications linking the southern part of the country to other regions.
But in an unprecedented move, the World Bank announced on Sep 20 that it made a decision ‘to be engaged anew’ in the project and to send two missions to Bangladesh.
Proper investigations of the alleged corruption by the ACC and allowing its panel to access all documents of investigation ‘for ensuring transparency’ were two of the conditions the Washington-based lender set.
The Director, however, said JICA did not know whether corruption happened or not. “But,” he said, “Bangladesh should investigate the alleged corruption seriously. We want the World Bank to come back.”
He said they made a lot of efforts to reengage the World Bank in the Padma bridge project and advised Bangladesh to take the alleged corruption ‘seriously’.
“We made a lot of strong suggestions at the (World Bank) top level. They’re still considering their engagement. We urged them to reengage as soon as possible,”
“We made a lot of efforts (to reengage the World Bank) because it’s an important project for the entire nation.”
“Any corruption should be investigated,” the JICA Director said, “We really want the ACC to take it very seriously. This is not a project only for the government. It’s a project for an entire nation.”
The largest bilateral donor, Japan has assisted Bangladesh in building more than 50 large and medium-size bridges including the largest one — the 4.8km Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge — that linked the northern region to capital Dhaka, boosting domestic trade and tourism.
The JICA Director said they would provide more support to Bangladesh, particularly in infrastructure development.