As the authorities have embarked on enacting a new law on public procurement, top policy planners are seeking ways to ensure "social accountability" of the people involving them in the war against corruption in government purchase mechanism.
Officials of the Planning Commission and the World Bank are currently working out modalities on how to create mass awareness against graft in public purchase estimated at more than US$3.0 billion a year.
Finance and Planning Minister M. Saifur Rahman has said the government will soon frame the Public Procurement Act as the international donors want Bangladesh to pass the law for increased aid flow.
"Donors want to see our procurement process transparent…If we can enact the Act tomorrow, then we will get Tk 30 billion right on the next day," Saifur was quoted by news agency UNB as saying after arrival at the airport from US trip.
Under a plan, a cross-section of the people, including the civil society, will be involved in the process to make the players of public purchase accountable to the society.
Similarly, the general public will be encouraged to wage a crusade against corruption in public procurement as part of their social obligation as well as commitment, sources at the Planning Commission said.
A four member World Bank (WB) mission is learnt to have pushed the idea to the government, apparently to stem the unbridled graft involving the government purchase, sources added.
The social accountability programme is expected to enable the people to exert pressure on the bureaucrats and contractors not to take recourse to graft or involve in irregularities while awarding contracts to any party.
"It's a new idea, indeed. But not so new as it is perceived. The thing is that everybody knows bribing in procurement is not socially acceptable. But the rot continues unchecked," a high official of the IMED (Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Department) told the FE Wednesday.
If the lowest bidder does not get the award of a contract, the people would force the authorities concerned to give it the work as it deserves, the official said, outlining the potential framework of the donor recipe.
Even the people will be keeping track whether the tendering process is carried out in a transparent manner, he added.
The proposed law, which has a total of 79 clauses, makes it mandatory to publish advertisements in newspapers 21 days before the bidding, officials said, noting it would help revolutionise the government procurement process.
By rough estimates, around 70 per cent of allocations under the development budget are being spent on the purchase of goods and services.
But it is alleged that a whopping chunk of the public purchase ends up in wrong hands -- the commission agents, contractors, bureaucrats and political leaders.
But a certain scepticism remains about the plan.
A high official of the IMED said: "We've to look at our own perspective whether such a plan is applicable to countries like Bangladesh where the level of empowerment of the common man is pitifully low".
Meantime, the government agencies concerned are in a fix whether they would go for a detailed law or a compact one in the wake of the rejection of the draft by the Cabinet Division for some shortcomings.
"Everything depends on the decision of the finance and planning Minister. The draft law has a total of 79 clauses. If he drops many of the clauses, then it will be a compact law," the official explained.
Many countries around the world, including France, Russia, Poland and the Philippines, framed such laws. But only the Philippines had made a detailed and comprehensive law.
The Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) of the IMED has already drafted the law styled "the Public Procurement Act 2005".
The draft is likely to be submitted to the Cabinet Division once again shortly for its consideration.