MNA Feature Desk: Around 200 public officials have so far visited Russia in connection with the capital-intensive Rooppur nuclear power plant project.
Spending a substantial amount from the project fund, insiders said on Saturday, some officials went to Russia for inspecting nuclear power facilities and some others either for training or for other purposes.
A number of ministers, directors of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), personal and administrative officials of science and technology ministry were among the visitors.
For an official visit, the government pays between $178 and $328 in “comprehensive allowance” daily to a policymaker or a public servant for food and accommodation in category-1 countries like Russia.
An FE investigation found that officials and executive trainees visited the transcontinental country for a period of minimum five days to one and a half years.
In February alone, science and technology ministry sent some 64 persons there for a meeting with State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM officials, visiting Novovoronezh nuke power plant and training.
In April, at least 55 officials, including BAEC director, scientific officers, personal admin officer and executive trainees of Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Ltd, went to Moscow.
The FE findings showed the project director himself visited Novovoronezh plant with his administrative officer only three months back in January.
In April, six officials, including a BAEC director, a public works department official, two architects and a BAEC engineer visited the same plant.
Earlier in 2016, at least 100 high officials, including a dozen of secretaries, visited Russia in a span of five months, spending thousands of dollars from Rooppur project fund, insiders disclosed.
Even a band of officials, including the then science and technology secretary, visited other countries at the cost of the project styled ‘Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) (phase-1)’.
Sources said the number of visitors in Russia is much higher than the aforesaid figures as many others went there since the beginning of the project.
Many of them are not related to the nuke power generation project directly or indirectly, they added.
Most of the policymakers and public servants went to visit Novovoronezh power station and participated in the talks with their Russian counterparts on the general contract and associated contract.
In its initial stage, from March 03 to July 31, 2016, at least 20 official delegations visited Russia.
In July 2016 alone, seven government teams that included two ministers, secretaries and senior secretaries, visited Moscow.
Science ministry sent to Russia some ministers, bureaucrats and high officials from public agencies along with those from Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority and BAEC to work on the project.
A dozen of secretaries and senior secretaries, nearly 10 additional secretaries, three personal secretaries (PSs) and officials of different ministries and agencies visited Russia from March to July 2016.
In June 2016, the then science and technology secretary Md Serajul Huq Khan visited Paris to attend Second World Nuclear Exhibition and Geneva for visiting European Organisation for Nuclear Research.
He was accompanied by his PS in Paris and two deputy secretaries of his ministry and the RNPP project director in Geneva.
According to the FE findings, cabinet secretary and his PS, NBR chairman, secretaries to railways, shipping, home, road transport, education, and science and technology ministries, visited Russia in 2016.
Prime Minister’s Office secretary, ERD secretary and IMED secretary were also had visited Russia.
Despite repeated attempts, science and technology secretary Md Anwar Hossain was not available for comment.
The government in July 2016 undertook the Rooppur project at Tk 1.13 trillion ($12.65 billion), which is scheduled to be completed by 2025. The Russian government is providing Tk 910.40 billion ($11.38 billion) as loan for building the project.
Russia is charging an interest rate of LIBOR plus 1.75 per cent, capped at 4.0 per cent, for its $11.38 billion loan.
The loan will mature in 28 years with 10 years’ grace period.