Fund crunch cripples Padma Bridge Rail Link Project
In a rare press release, the Chinese contractor for the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project has alleged that it has not been paid for work done in the last seven months, and this was slowing down progress in work. Moreover, the slowdown is likely to trigger cost escalation and meeting the deadline has now become even more challenging.
Not from the Chinese contractor's end, the fund crunch alarm for the rail link project should have been rung from the project director on our end. He, however, refrained from making any comment on the fund crunch issue. But the fact is that pending payment of seven months should have been negotiated and resolved long ago, why had the government authorities concealed the glitch? China Railway Group Ltd, the contractor for the biggest project of Bangladesh Railway (BR), said the government owes it $400 million and the payment delay rendered it unable to buy sufficient construction materials and pay subcontractors and suppliers timely.
Conflicts between contractors and project authorities are not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. During the peak season of the pandemic in last June, CREC had issued another press release, alleging that Roads and Highways Department (RHD) had closed a passage between the Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga Expressway and a service road, causing problems for the construction work. Responding to it, the RHD had refuted the allegations and said the CREC and its sub-contractors were damaging the expressway and service roads with their heavily loaded trucks. Not easy to guess, who is on the right side?
We mark clear lack of coordination and dexterity between the RHD and CREC. Moreover, the smoke screen surrounding the payment issue needs to be cleared the quickest. The CREC has also said in its press release that it received mobilisation payment at the end of June 2018 but Bangladesh Railway did not pay them anything between that time and September 2020. And on one occasion for submitting a bill to meet project expenses, Bangladesh Railway authority had sent the bill to China Exim Bank asking it to release part of the loan three months later.
The drama of mismanagement and inefficiency over the rail link project has given birth to far too many questions. We draw urgent attention of the government's highest authority to quick investigate into what's happening. Address all inefficiencies while take punitive measures against inept officials those who are delaying the Padma multi-purpose Bridge from being completed within the stipulated timeframe. Needless to mention, those who are responsible for poor project execution are also responsible for growing costs, directly and indirectly.