The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has proposed to purchase a pool of 56 vehicles at Tk 261.8 million for Dhaka-Sylhet-Tamabil road-widening projects.
Among the vehicles, insiders said on Monday, the state-owned road developer would purchase 16 luxury jeeps, 17 double-cabin pickups, two microbuses, and 21 motorcycles for widening the highways.
It also sought to spend Tk 98.34 million on buying oil, petrol, and gas, registration, and maintenance fees for the vehicles to be purchased under road uplift work.
An official said the Planning Commission (PC) has asked the RHD to rationalise costs for vehicle purchase and some other components of the projects.
When asked, a senior PC official said: “Fifty-six vehicles for a single road development work are really ambitious. The vehicles will be procured with the hard-earned public-taxed money.”
“The project implementing agency should be rational in spending public funds in this abnormal COVID period,” he told the FE seeking anonymity.
As the RHD has bought hundreds of automobiles under multiple projects over the years, those should be used to monitor upcoming projects rather than buying new ones, the official asserted.
The RHD has recently undertaken the two projects for widening 209-kilometre Dhaka-Sylhet corridor and 56-kilometre Sylhet-Tamabil highway.
It has taken the ‘SASEC: Dhaka-Sylhet corridor development project’ at Tk 171.62 billion and the ‘Improvement of Sylhet-Tamabil road to a four-lane highway’ at Tk 35.86 billion.
The Asian Development Bank would finance the Dhaka-Sylhet part while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank the Sylhet-Tamabil part.
The government’s highest economic policy-making body ECNEC approved the Sylhet-Tamabil road upgradation project last September.
However, the Dhaka-Sylhet corridor development project is waiting for approval from the ECNEC.
The RHD has proposed buying 31 vehicles, including 10 jeeps, eight double-cabin pickups, one microbus, and 12 bikes, at Tk 147 million for Dhaka-Sylhet corridor-widening scheme.
It also mooted Tk 114.8 million for purchasing six jeeps, nine double-cabin pickups, one microbus and nine bikes for the Sylhet-Tamabil highway improvement work.
In an analysis, the FE has found that the estimated prices for similar types of vehicles for both projects are shown differently.
The Dhaka-Sylhet corridor development project has proposed at Tk 9.5 million for each jeep while Tk 9.85 million for the Sylhet-Tamabil corridor scheme.
Similarly, the RHD has proposed Tk 5.8 million for each double-cabin pickup for the Dhaka-Sylhet scheme while Tk 5.63 million for the Sylhet-Tamabil project.
Centre for Policy Dialogue executive director Dr Fahmida Khatun said such expenditure on nonessentials not only boosts overall project costs but also narrows down the rate of return for investment.
She suggested that the government ensure governance and strictly monitor the project from start to end to curb the criminal waste of public funds.
Meanwhile, land acquisition for the Dhaka-Sylhet-Tamabil projects is going on under a separate project.
The Tk 38.86-billion land acquisition and utility transfer project: Support to improvement of Dhaka (Kanchpur)-Sylhet-Tamabil highway into four lanes and construction of separate service lanes on both sides of the project was okayed in October 2018.