Complications surrounding the return of ‘misused’ World Bank funds provided to some projects of different ministries may hinder the lender’s further funding to local projects.
Recently, the Washington-based lender identified some procurement irregularities called ‘mis-procurement or ineligible expenditure’ and asked the concerned local authorities to return that fund, sources at Economic Relations Division (ERD) said.
There is an allegation against the concerned implementing agencies of dilly-dallying in returning the funds, which might eventually create problems for WB’s future funding to local projects, ERD officials feared.
In a recent inter-ministerial meeting on the WB’s allegation, the concerned ministries or divisions were spurred for returning the funds quickly. At the same time, the lender was requested to raise such allegations when projects are into operation, meeting sources said.
Usually, the WB takes back project money once it finds any spending irregularities for any projects through its own investigation, concerned ERD officials said.
The lender creates problems in releasing other funds for those implementing agencies if the misused funds are not refunded quickly, they added.
Similarly, the WB has been requested as well to raise allegations and complete their disposal while the projects are ongoing as the project-related personnel take on other responsibilities after completion of a project, an ERD official familiar with the process said.
The new project officials do not want to take responsibility of the previous officials, which actually creates procrastination for the return of the fund as well as for future funding negotiations, according to ERD officials.
Agriculture ministry and fisheries and livestock ministry implemented National Agriculture Technology Project (NATP) during 2007 to 2014 period with WB funds.
However, the lender raised the question of mis-procurement in the project implementation and sought the refund of nearly $111,000--an amount which the implementing agencies said was not properly estimated.
Agriculture ministry held a meeting on the issue and sent an explanation letter to the WB through ERD in August last year. Although ERD contacted the WB on two occasions later, the WB did not respond to it as the ministry’s explanation was not acceptable to them, ERD officials informed.
Besides, the WB sought back $355,920 fund provided to ‘Avian Influenza Preparedness and Response’ project which was also implemented between 2007 and 2014.
The project related people, however, admitted to a ‘systematic error’ caused by a lack of awareness about Public Procurement Rules (PPR).
As a result, the fisheries and livestock ministry requested the finance ministry to return the money referred to as ‘ineligible expenditure,’ but the finance ministry did not respond to the request.
ERD fears that implementation of two large projects of the sector might face hurdle as the WB might make objections about financing those schemes.
The similar problem was found in ‘employment generation for the poorest project’ implanted by disaster management and relief ministry during the March 2010 to June 2014 period.
Full money out of the WB’s demanded amount has not yet been returned.
The WB has already conveyed the message that additional funding to ‘safety net programme for the poorest’ might face problems because of not returning the mis-procured money, ERD officials said.
The WB also sought a refund of nearly $18,000 from ‘disability and children at risk project’ finished between 2008 and 2016, citing irregularities in procuring computers and furniture.
An ERD initiative to resolve the issue with arranging a tripartite meeting is yet to yield any results.
The inter-ministerial meeting decided that implementing agencies have to identify and dispose of last fiscal’s mis-procurement issues by the current fiscal year, and project officials have to conduct their own audit to the projects three months before submission of project completion reports.
At the same time, the WB has to complete its own audits three months before project completion and the concerned finance ministry officials have to attend the tripartite meetings aimed at addressing allegations, according to the meeting decisions.