Tk 19.82 cr set for appointing 973 advisers
Golam Mostafa Jibon: This time, some 30 officers of the Public Library Department have to go abroad spending public money amounting at Tk 2 crore to visit buildings.
Around Tk 6.66 lakh has also been determined for each of the officers in this regard, while more than Tk 19.82 crore has been set for appointment of 973 advisers.
Such expenditures have been determined in a project proposal titled ‘Construction of Multi-storied Building for Public Library Department’, thanks to the proposal makers for their incredible planning.
But, the impact of Covid-19 was not considered in the evaluation of the project as the meeting of the ‘Project Evaluation Committee’ (PEC) was held on December 26 last year.
The Planning Commission has recommended for presenting the proposal to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) for approval. Now it is waiting for approval at any meeting, sources said.
Abul Kalam Azad, Member (Secretary) of the Socio-Economic Infrastructure Department of the Planning Commission, also one of the responsible persons for processing of the project, said, “Foreign travel is often required to gather knowledge. But, why do so many people have to go abroad, I can’t understand? We are looking for the reasons. Besides, why so many consultants are needed here (?), it will be investigated.”
Planning Commission sources said, the total cost of the project has been fixed at Tk 533.48 crore. Under the project, the head office of the Public Libraries Department would be infrastructurally upgraded to an international standard through the construction of modern multi-storied buildings with multiple facilities.
In addition, the role of public libraries would be made more attractive and useful to the public including readers, researchers and data collectors, by enhancing infrastructure and technical facilities.
At the same time, as per the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, all the manpower and activities of the National Public Library will be installed in one building and activities of all the government public libraries in the country will be coordinated centrally.
If the project is approved, it would be implemented by the Public Libraries Department and Public Works Department (PWD) starting from this year to June 2024.
After reviewing the cost proposal of the project, it has been found that the expenditure proposal for the trip of abroad for 30 officers has been proposed at Tk 2 crore. In this context, at the PEC meeting, it was said by the Planning Commission that the cost of overseas travel should be kept limited within Tk 2 crore.
Besides, Tk 19,82,65,000 has been required for 963 consultants. In this context, the Planning Commission in the PEC meeting said that the expenditure in the consultancy sector should reduce logically. If, foreign consultants are needed in the preliminary stage, it is necessary to reduce the cost including reduction of population number.
The Ministry of Culture said, the expenditure in the consultancy sector has been reduced after excluding the honorarium of foreign consultants. However, architectural and structural design will be formulated for proper execution of the construction work. In addition, there are needed regular inspections by the consultants. The scopes of the consultants’ works for mechanical, plumbing and landscaping design have to be enhanced during the construction.
Expenditure in this sector has been reasonably reduced in the light of the decision of the PEC meeting in consultation with the consulting firm including the representatives of the Ministry. In this context, Tk 19,82,65,000 has been fixed instead of the proposed Tk 28,22,24,000 for the sector.
On the other hand, the Planning Commission in the initial stage has canceled the various expenses proposed under the project.
The Planning Commission in the PEC meeting said, the basis for estimating the construction work of the public library’s temporary office was not clear. Expenditure division should be mentioned in the restructured DPP (Revised Project Proposal) by logically reducing the cost of steel installation to Tk 22 crore.
In this regard, the Ministry of Culture has said that, the construction cost of six-storied steel structure building with 54,700 square feet has been increased to Tk 5 crore instead of Tk 2 crore for the sake of keeping the library services uninterrupted for the readers during the project implementation. It was done after consultation with the PWD. In other words, the ministry has moved away from the proposal of Tk 80 crore for the purchase of books.
It was said in the PEC meeting that the proposal of Tk 80 crore for the book purchasing under the project should be dropped.
According to the Ministry of Culture, books are the lifeblood of the library. The existing library has an area of 64,000 square feet. The number of books is 2 lakh. The total area of the newly constructed state-of-the-art building is 2,43,750 square feet. So, it is necessary to add new books for the library, which is more than 10 times the size. Otherwise, there will be a possibility of creating unnecessary controversy in this regard.
Giving consent with other decisions of the PEC meeting, it has been proposed to allocate Tk 25 crore instead of Tk 80 crore for print and e-book procurement alone under the project.
Some proposals have also been rejected in the face of objections from the Planning Commission. Of them, Tk 60 lakh of hiring charges has been cancelled under the project. Besides, Tk 11.2 crore has been rejected for unforeseen expenses, while Tk 5 lakh for STP has been excluded.
Not only this, a 10-storied residential building will be constructed in the capital under the project. Besides, two basement and 9-storied non-residential buildings will be constructed, while two jeeps, a double cabin pickup and a minibus will be purchased. Appointment of consultants, purchasing of books, office rent, purchase of computers and equipment will be done under the project.
Abul Kalam Azad, said, the public library building turned into dilapidated. It is necessary to demolish the building and build a modern library and auditorium. So the project is approvable. The project, proposed by the Public Libraries Department and PWD at the initiative of the Ministry of Culture, has been recommended to be submitted to ECNEC for full government funding.
Dr Zahid Hossain, former Senior Economist of the World Bank said, “Foreign tours have become a tradition under development projects. It is important to get out of this culture. The situation before of Corona pandemic and now is not same. The Planning Commission should have re-evaluated the expenditure proposals once again before recommending the ECNEC. Without it, foreign travel and the offer to spend so much money against consultants can raise questions.