Kushtia Medical College: A project plagued by corruption & controversies!

Kushtia Medical College’s ambitious hospital building project was approved way back in 2011 and construction work began two years later. More than nine years on, the building is still under-construction.

To be precise, the picture is one of chaos. Only 50 percent of work has been completed on the building since the project began. The building was supposed to be completed in 2016.

Moreover, the inordinate delay in completion of the project has led to a three-fold increase in the budget earmarked for its construction. The project began with a budget of Tk 275 crore on 20 acres of land in the Laheni area.

Not to mention that “poor” construction work at the site triggered the collapse of a ceiling in the under-construction hospital building in 2019, claiming the lives of some workers.

Earlier this month, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered a probe into the delay in completion of the project after rejecting its sixth revision proposal put forward before the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council.

The medical college management blames the contractor for the delay, but UNB has learnt that the officials of the local public works department and the health department are also responsible for the same. Some also blame “bad local politics” behind the delay.

Dr Sarwar Jahan, the acting principal of Kushtia Medical College, operating out of the Medical Assistant Training School (MATS) building since 2011, says the project contractors have been giving false assurances for the past nine years.

“But the project is far from completion. Space in MATS building is not at all adequate to accommodate all our students. We demand proper measures to address the problem at the earliest,” Dr Sarwar says.

However, an investigation by UNB has revealed that few officials of PWD, are also responsible for the project’s inordinate delay, apart from the “poor” construction work by the several contractors engaged for the same as well as the inefficiency of the project director.

The Development Project Proposal (DPP) was submitted in 2008, but work on the ground began five years later. The PWD engineers have also failed to carry out proper supervision of the project since construction began.

The supervising engineer of Jessore circle, Manik Lal Dash is one of them. He is accused of taking benefits from the contractors. He is also accused of extending the term of a black-listed contractor till 2022.

Interestingly, Manik Lal was bailed out in the ceiling collapse case of 2019 though others, including some of his juniors, were punished.

Manik Lal, however, denies the accusations and insists he is innocent. “In two years of my supervision of the project, it was not revised once nor its deadline was extended.” On the contrary, he blames the then local executive engineers of Kushtia for corruption.

“The problem started from the beginning of the project due to the five-year delay in its approval. The approval delay was followed by delay in the tendering process,” he claims.

During 2012’s tender process, Kushtia PWD’s executive engineer was Shahin Mia. He is accused of footing the bill to the contractors before the work began. And instead of starting the construction work, the contractors kept on delaying the project.

“Shahin Mia allegedly took a commission of more than Tk 5 crore from the contractors and used that ill-gotten money to bag a posting in Dhaka. His successor, Md Shahid Kabir also took commission from the contractors, which further delayed the project,” sources allege.

Current situation of the project

In 2018, the project term was renewed. A year later, executive engineer Ariful Islam took charge and he undertook several measures to expedite construction work. He used to personally check the quality of construction before clearing the bills of the contractors.

A reality check by UNB on January 14 revealed that construction work was progressing at the site at a snail’s pace. Only 20-25 construction workers were working at each of the six packages of the project on that day.

In the project revision committee’s meeting held on March 12 last year, the cost was increased to Tk 682 crore with June 2023 as the new deadline. PM Sheikh Hasina has dismissed the revised proposal.

Ariful has also ensured separate probes into the graft allegations by the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the Planning Commission and the Health Ministry.

Source: United News of Bangladesh