Dhaka Sep 17 (bdnews24.com—Dr Moshiur Rahman went on leave Monday, a highly-placed government source told bdnews24.com, apparently giving in to pressure from ruling party stalwarts that he departed for now to make way for the World Bank to release $ 1.2 billion for the Padma project.
Several sources said Moshiur, who advises the Prime Minister on economic affairs, had left office temporarily but no senior government functionary could say for how many days. The under-fire advisor, who is also the Integrity Advisor in the Padma bridge project, was absent in Monday’s regular weekly Cabinet meeting that he usually attends.
The Advisor could not be reached.
Another prime ministerial advisor, Dr Gawher Rizvi, left for Washington on Sunday night to negotiate with the World Bank over the Padma funding, a source in the government said.
World Bank Country Director Ellen Goldstein also went to Washington, where the global lending agency is headquartered, on Saturday to discuss the issue, Communications Officer at its Dhaka office Mehrin A Mahbub told bdnews24.com.
All the bdnews24.com sources declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Allegations of corruption in the Padma bridge project were raised against Moshiur, former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain and several others. The World Bank demanded that he be removed as well if the money was to be made available.
No government official, however, agreed to speak on record about the Advisor going on leave.
A press photographer who took pictures of the Cabinet meeting and several intelligence officials tasked with the security of the meeting had also confirmed the absence of the advisor there.
They said Moshiur was not seen even five minutes before the meeting started and added that he would usually take his seat before the Prime Minister does.
When asked about Moshiur’s absence, Cabinet Secretary M Mosharraf Hossain Bhuyian told bdnews24.com: “I was busy receiving the Prime Minister and later with the agenda of the meeting. So I can’t say whether he came or not.”
On whether the Advisor resigned, Bhuiyan said he knew nothing about this.
Earlier, former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain had resigned and Bridges Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuyian was sent on leave.
Facing the demand of his resignation, Moshiur on Sep 12 said he had not yet taken any decision on the issue.
On Aug 26, he had said he would resign if the government and the Prime Minister thought that he had not worked faithfully.
“I’ll not only resign once but 10 times if the $2.9 billion fund row is settled. But if there is any allegations, witnesses and evidences will have to be presented to prove these and I’ll have to be given the chance to defend myself,” he had added.
Last Saturday, at the Awami League Central Executive Committee’s meeting, the party’s General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam suggested that Moshiur be sent on leave, saying it would help to get the World Bank back on the Padma bridge project.
Following Abul Hossain’s resignation, Finance Minister AMA Muhith had said that the other obstructions to bring back the global lender to the project would be removed, too.
Later, the opposition BNP asked for Moshiur’s resignation. But media reported that the World Bank’s return to the project had been hanging in the balance once again as the advisor did not resign or went on leave.
In September last year, the World Bank gave some conditions after allegations of corruption in the project had surfaced. The conditions include sending relevant government officials to leave. The global lender cancelled the fund in June, saying that the conditions were not met.
Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Moshiur Rahman on Tuesday claimed that a World Bank ‘spy network’ in Dhaka is sending wrong information to its headquarters.
“There’s a World Bank spy network here (Dhaka) … They have passed on false information to the World Bank,” he alleged while speaking to journalists at his Hare Road residence.
The World Bank, after cancelling the $ 1.2 billion loan deal for the Padma bridge project on graft allegations, set some conditions for its return to the project. One of the conditions was to send some senior government officials linked to the project on leave including Moshiur who is the Integrity Advisor in the project.
Amid reports that the Advisor had been sent on leave to get the Washington-based lender release the money, Moshiur rejected the idea, saying he did not apply for leave.
On Saturday, at a Central Executive Committee meeting, Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam told Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that sending Moshiur on leave would help get the Washington-based lender back onboard.
Moshiur said on Tuesday: “My going on leave is a minor issue. The more important issue is to publish names those associated with the espionage against the country’s interest.”
Moshiur claimed to have obtained several e-mails sent by those ‘spies’ to the World Bank and added that he had informed Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith about them.
When asked about identity of senders of the e-mails, he said, “The e-mails came from some unknown sources.”
He said: “I had talks with those who are supposed to give us money. They have appointed some people of our country as spies, who supply them (donors) baseless information. They (spies) have also suggested what to do.”
“I told them this is unlawful. Spy networks of many countries operate in our country and if they are caught, they are punished,” Moshiur said.
“The most important thing we want to know is the names of the informers who misled the World Bank. It is important for our country and for our honour.”
He added: “The Word Bank’s setting up a spy network is an appalling move. They (World Bank) cannot disclose the names of the spies to the government as they need to save them. If they disclose the names, they won’t get cooperation in future.”
He denied having gone on leave even though several government sources said he has, to make way for the World Bank to release money for the bridge. He told bdnews24.com on Monday night: “I haven’t applied for leave yet. There has been no need to apply for it.”
Former Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain had to quit after the global lender cancelled the loan agreement in June, and opposition BNP then turned up the heat on Moshiur to quit.
Following Abul Hossain’s resignation, Muhith had said that other obstructions to bring back the global lender to the project would be removed, too.
Moshiur on Sep 12 said he had not yet taken any decision on the issue. Before that, on Aug 26, he had said he would quit if the government and the Prime Minister thought that he did not work sincerely.
The government took measures to bring the World Bank on board, and a source at the Washington-based lender said it would review the decision if Moshiur went on leave.
‘Bridge with own fund’
“Bangladesh has the ability to build the bridge with its own fund without putting any pressure on the economy,” the Advisor said. “It may not be a grand bridge, but we can build a workable bridge.”
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina recently put forward in Parliament a roadmap to build the bridge with own funding.
The former Economic Relations Division Secretary said the Canadian firm did not rank first when evaluated by the local evaluation committee.
“But the World Bank sent its opinion to select the monitoring firm as per its requirement,” he said adding, “The Canadian firm became first when we applied their guidelines.”
“We’ve sent them several tender documents in the last 12 to 18 months but they (World Bank) took only one decision and that is about appointment of the Canadian firm,” he added.