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Open season is the time of the year when it is legal to hunt a particular wildlife species. In Bangladesh, June seems to be the month when government officials declare open season on public spending. Our fiscal year ends June 30, and money that has not been spent by then goes back to the government exchequer. To prevent this, an orgy of spending takes place at various government ministries and agencies, inevitably resulting in wastage of public money and slipshod development work.
Let’s take the health ministry as an example. The total allocation for the health sector was Tk.3,035 crore in the current fiscal. The health ministry was able to utilise a mere 47 percent of this fund in its various projects in the first 10 months of the financial year. Now, according to sources, it is pulling out all stops to use the remaining cash in the month of June. Health officials have gone on a shopping spree, it is alleged, to buy equipment, furniture and medicine for hospitals and health centres around the country.
The overall picture is one of wastage and inefficiency. The widespread failure in implementing the Annual Development Programme (ADP) has always been a matter of concern and things do not seem to be improving. According to the planning ministry, only 45 per cent of the ADP was implemented in the first nine months of the current financial year. Experts blame the inefficiency of the implementing agencies and slow disbursement or suspension of foreign loans for such poor performance.
The concern is that because of the slow pace of ADP implementation, the various government agencies will rush to implement the remaining 55 per cent in just a few weeks – an impossible task that opens the door to wastage and corruption.
In his concluding speech on the supplementary budget, the finance minister himself admitted that full implementation of ADP was never achieved. ADP for the 2009-10 fiscal was Tk 340 billion and the spending was Tk 310 billion, while in 2010-11 it was Tk 380 billion and spending about Tk 360 billion. The government typically implements only 60 per cent in the first 10 months and speeds up the execution of the remaining 40 per cent in the last two months of the financial year.
This evil practice of binge spending towards the end of the financial year is blowing a hole in our public finances and it must be stopped immediately. It is inexcusable that although we have the money for development work, we are unable to use it properly due to incompetence. The government has unveiled a massive ADP of Tk. 460 billion in the budget for 2012-13. The public deserves to know that every Taka will be spent efficiently and wisely.
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