Cox’s Bazar Airport: Govt reissues tender after axing controversial contractor for runway expansion project

A report was published in Dhaka Tribune on June 17 over the controversial tender process

The government has reissued the tender for the Tk1,998 crore airport runway expansion job at Cox’s Bazar airport after evidence of fraud was found against the controversial Chinese contractor previously selected for the project.

Md Muhibul Haque, senior secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, confirmed the Dhaka Tribune that the previous tender of the Cox’s Bazar airport runway extension project has been cancelled. 

“We have already floated a re-tender and the notice has been published in daily newspapers,” he added. 

Inspired by Hong Kong International Airport, the Bangladesh government took an ambitious project to expand the runway at the Cox’s Bazar airport by reclaiming land from the sea in a bid to woo tourists to the beach town.

The project, which was approved by the government on November 4, 2018, has been estimated to cost Tk1,998 crore to construct the 1,700 feet-long runway extension, of which 1,300 feet will be on the sea.

However, building such a spectacular runway means it will be expensive and only a handful of companies in the world have the expertise to construct runways extending from shore to sea.

Surprisingly, the tender went to a controversial Chinese company, CRCC Harbour, which not only failed to fulfill the 15-year experience criteria but was also an associate entity of a company which was blacklisted by the World Bank in 2019 for various irregularities.

In November 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), the government body overseeing the massive project, announced the tender and fixed March 19, 2020, as the last date of submission. 

A total of 10 bidders, mostly from China, Korea, and Turkey, submitted their proposals.  

On May 17, 2020, CAAB selected Chinese company CRCC Harbour after reportedly scrutinizing their technical and financial proposals for the tender.

A report was published in Dhaka Tribune on June 17 over the controversial tender process.

On June 24, the project was placed before a cabinet committee meeting for public purchase for approval. However, the meeting decided to send the proposal to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Planning Ministry to investigate the contractor and the tendering process following the news report.

The IMED probe found evidence that CRCC Harbour committed fraud by submitting documents with misleading information and fake experience certificates to get the work from CAAB.

Following the probe, the government decided to cancel the existing tender schedule and issue a re-tender for the much talked about project.

What did the IMED probe find?

According to the IMED report, CRCC Harbour submitted an experience certificate incorporated with misleading information and without any signature. 

According to CRCC Harbour’s document, the company worked on a project on reclaiming land from sea in China. The said contract for the project was signed on December 30, 2014, but the construction work started on November 18, 2011, some three years before the signature date. 

It also claimed that the company finished the work on December 29, 2016, but handed over the project on June 18, 2015, which was another inconsistency in the document. 

The IMED report said CRCC Harbour was an associate entity of the China Railway Construction Limited (CRCC), which was banned by the World Bank on June 5, 2019, for nine months due to irregularities.      

According to the observation in the report, CRCC and its associates won some work orders from different ministries by submitting fake experience certificates and hiding the World Bank ban.

According to the principles of the World Bank, the ban will be applicable for all signatory development partners with the organization. Bangladesh became a signatory partner of the World Bank in 1972.   

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