Once again, specific corruption allegations have been brought regarding the use of Bangladesh Climate Change Trust fund. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Thursday said, all seven projects worth Tk 680 million were approved following recommendations based on political consideration and there are allegations of misappropriation in expenditure of Tk 370 million. There have been such accusations against the Trust since the beginning, although it was the government’s one of the far-sighted decisions.
Everybody knows Bangladesh is among the worst affected countries by climate change. But the developed countries, as key contributor to the climate change, seem to act reluctantly to finance these countries. Therefore, prime minister Sheikh Hasina, not waiting for funds from others, took an initiative in 2009 which could be a role model in global arena. Its main objective was to set an example for the world to follow by implementing such a project with its own funds. The project’s aim was to increase the adaptation capacity of people affected by the climate change and those from risk prone areas and protect the biodiversity.
The Trust will turn 12 in a few days. We have seen a significant number of rules and regulations to keep the Trust’s activities transparent. There is a 17-member high-powered board headed by the environment minister and a technical committee headed by the secretary in this regard. But ironically, what we don’t see is how those rules are followed and what the results are.
It is written in the project check-list of the Trust: whether there is the signature of senior secretary or secretary of the concerned administrative ministry on the project proposal. It can be assumed that those proposals, regarding which there have been accusations of taking 10 per cent bribes in advance by the private secretary of a former minister, were signed by secretary as per law.
An investigative report published in Prothom Alo eight year back showed there were projects, run under this Trust, that are not related to climate change and it is completely opposite to the main objective of the Trust.
Moreover, many projects were handed to new and inexperienced NGOs. Again projects were approved discriminatingly for areas of some ministers. Some of those projects were cancelled as irregularities were found in the PKSF investigation. It is evident that those were not separate incidents as the projects under the Trust have been accused of misappropriation since the beginning. Nobody was heard to be punished so far. The fund of the Trust has gradually shrunk from its initial Tk 40 billion. But this is not the solution. It is certainly meaningless and suicidal to continue the Trust just to avoid the embarrassment. One may be confused by clicking the achievement section of the Trust’s website. There is no description about the implementation of any project and the changes it brought.
According to the Climate Change Trust Act of 2010, the Comptroller and Auditor General will inspect the project every year and submit a copy of the audit report to the government and the board. The overall financial responsibility for the project rests with the project director or implementing ministry or agency. We want to see every C&AG report immediately on the trust’s web portal. Keeping this report secret is a serious financial irregularity. Let the whole activities of the trust be verified. Climate change is now generally involved with all the projects. So, it should be reconsidered why the trust will exist and how.