Execution of the multi-billion dollars Padma Bridge and Dhaka elevated expressway project could face major difficulties due to the poor capacity of the Bangladesh Bridge Authority.
Experts and the donors have raised the fear, saying the BBA – the executive agency of the two projects worth four billion dollars – is “too undermanned” to implement the infrastructures.
They said the BBA has been running with only 162 manpower which is too meagre to take up the 6.15 km road-cum-rail Padma Multipurpose bridge and the 32km Dhaka elevated expressways
The key infrastructures are in the present administration’s priority list, with officials and ministers declaring that the projects would be finished by the end of the government’s tenure in 2014.
Experts said the BBA needs three times more than its present number staff to carry out works related to design, supervision and human resettlement in time.
Officials said the authority, which executed the country’s biggest project to date – the Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge — once had 364 staff, but lost most of its manpower since the bridge was opened to traffic in 1997.
Donors who have expressed their eagerness to bank-roll Padma bridge have raised concern over the incapacity of the BBA in several visits to the country since February.
In several aid memoires to the government, the donors have noted their worry. In May, a key donor’s mission also raised the issue.
Officials said the issue of low capacity of the BBA was one of the major reasons for donors’ delay in okaying the pre-qualification bidding of the $ 2.4 billion Padma bridge.
Professor Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, said the lack of expertise is ‘visible’ in areas such as traffic management, river training, structural engineering and financial analysis of the two projects.
He said the BBA needs own staff to work on public private partnership management and for guiding the contractors at the field level.
“BBA must have its own core staff. They should have their own officials rather than depend on officials of other departments,” Prof Reza told the FE
“We need at least 500 people of different levels to implement all types of the project works. They should be recruited without delay,” said a BBA official, preferring anonymity.
Another BBA official said the elevated expressway project’s speedy designing and bidding preparation work has already been delayed due to “insufficient manpower”.
BBA executive director Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, however, rejected the demand for increased manpower for his agency.
He said the authority needs “some specialized people”, which will be recruited in time.
“We don’t need many people. We need some experts and they will be recruited from other departments of the government through deputation,” he said.