Ref: The Economic Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister, Mashiur Rahman, on Sunday said he will have no qualms about going on long leave for the sake of the agreement for the World Bank funding in the multi-billion dollar Padma bridge project.
He made the comments after emerging from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) headquarters, where he was questioned over his suspected involvement in the alleged corruption in the ambitious project.
The questioning came on his return from a month’s leave following conditions set out by the bank. He was the Integrity Advisor to the project.
“I will not put any obstacle to discussions (with the World Bank). If there is an understanding between the government and the World Bank, if the Prime Minister and the government agree to that, I don’t have any reservations about going on leave for a longer period of time,” said Rahman, who advises Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on economic affairs.
As eyebrows were raised after Rahman rejoined work, Finance Minister AMA Muhith earlier on Sunday said there had been no breach in the accord the government struck with the World Bank.
Muhith’s statement, however, did not address the question as to why the advisor returned to duties on Nov 1, a month after he had gone on a leave to ‘meet conditions of the global lender’. It had alleged that Mashiur was involved with corruption.
Earlier around noon, Muhith had said the government would clarify both leave and return of Rahman by the evening. Economic Relations Department’s Secretary Iqbal Mahmood read out a statement given by the Finance Minister in the afternoon.
“Until today, we did not deviate from the conditions based on which the agreement was struck with the World Bank after detailed discussions,” said the letter.
“The government is strongly committed to implementing the promises given to the World Bank,” the letter added.
The letter said Mashiur joined office as per the government decision, but restrained from elaborating further on the issue.
Mashiur was sent on leave on Sep 17 to meet conditions World Bank had set for returning with its $1.2 billion fund to the $2.9 billion project. The World Bank announced its return to the project three days later.
The Washington-based lender suspended its pledged $1.2 billion credit last year raising graft allegations against some senior government officials, and set some conditions for its return to the project.
It had cancelled the loan deal on June 29 this year saying no measures were taken to meet those conditions, including the one of sending Mashiur on leave.
After the World Bank’s return to the project, Muhith, however, had said that Mashiur was excluded from all financial activities of the government, including the Padma bridge.
There was suggestion that the advisor’s return on Nov 1 breached the condition of the global lending agency and the Finance Minister’s statement sought to address it.
Mashiur himself once denied taking any leave when approached by journalists. The government neither confirmed nor denied media reports that he had been sent on a month’s leave
Regarding the leave, on Sunday, Mashiur said, “There is nothing to be clarified on the issue. I took leave and returned as that ended.”
“I will ensure that there are no obstacles to the discussions. The matter whether I should stay or not is not important at all.”
He claimed the World Bank did not have evidence to substantiate the allegations of corruption they raised against him.
“I don’t know anything about this offence or scandal. Please don’t hesitate to have those (evidence) published in your newspapers if World Bank gives you something.”
“If not, I would request you to refrain from running smear campaign and publish what is true as a patriot.
Asked what questions he faced at the ACC, the former bureaucrat said: “My conversation with the ACC is highly confidential. ACC may brief you about it. If any case is filed (against me), you will be there to hear my statement at an open court.”
In his immediate reaction after return, Mashiur told bdnews24.com on Saturday: “I have joined work after expiry of my leave. I will follow what the Prime Minister decides on her return home (from abroad).”
The Prime Minister is currently visiting Vietnam and Laos and will return home on Nov 7.
Regarding Mashiur’s return, Awami League central committee member Mohammad Nasim said on Sunday: “I wonder why we are sliding back for the sake of one or two individuals?”
“Those who have lost their necessity and whose words and activities are bothering us should either be excluded or have to leave.”
ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman, however, said he did not think Mashiur’s return will affect their work anyway.
ACC is currently investigating the allegations of corruption in the project aided by a panel of three experts from the World Bank.
On Saturday, the Finance Minister said the World Bank panel of experts are satisfied with the way the ACC was investigation the charges.
The same day he announced that another team of the Bank is due in Dhaka this month to discuss implementation of the project.