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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

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News Analysis
Measuring success in over and under-the-table bribe taking
Shamsul Huq Zahid
1/25/2006
 

          The anti-corruption commission (ACC) during its existence for more than two years at least has two achievements to its credit.
Earlier, officials at the Customs House at Chittagong used to take bribes 'over the table'. Because of the ACC they have changed that bad habit and are now doing the same 'under-the-table'!
And the second achievement relates to people's perception about corruption. The people have now realised the fact that 'corruption is a strong obstacle to development'.
None other than the chairman of the ACC mentioned about the two achievements while paying a visit to the Chittagong port and the Chittagong Customs House.
The ACC chairman was candid in his statement. The anti-graft body headed by him, much to the disappointment of the people, could not accomplish anything better. Yet such statements from the ACC chief do only expose the ineffectiveness of an organisation that is meant for combating the number of one problem---corruption --- facing the country.
When demand for setting up an anti-graft body gained strength, the main contenders for power in the 2001 general elections committed themselves to fulfil that demand and the common people who are the victims of systemic corruption had expected something big and effective. But their hopes were largely dashed. The incumbent government dragged its feet for a long time and what was produced finally, following relentless pressures from the donors and others, came as a great disappointment.
The ACC was born as a lame entity. The parliament enacted a law for the formation of the commission. But the government constituted the commission after a long delay without doing the necessary work to make it an effective and dynamic organisation.
So the ACC after its formation found itself in a difficult situation and it is still to come out of it in the absence of necessary rules. And the bureaucracy with tacit support from the politicians made things worse for the ACC. The politico-bureaucratic nexus was apparently successful in belittling the Commission in the public eye within months from its formation.
There were troubles with the absorption of the staff members of the defunct anti-corruption bureau (BAC) and between the chairman and another influential member of the commission. Besides, there were problems with organogram and rules necessary for smooth functioning of the anti-graft body.
The problems with the organogram have now been resolved and the ACC expects to get a set of rules from the Cabinet Division soon.
Meanwhile, there has been no dearth of high-sounding promises from the ACC top boss.
While speaking at an AmCham function in Dhaka Tuesday he assured the audience that the ACC after having the rules from the Cabinet Division would be able to bring down the incidences of corruption by about 50 per cent within a year. How far is his assurance relevant to ground realities? Should not this kind of claim prompt many to raise eyebrows?
Anyone knowing the intensity and level of corruption in Bangladesh would never have dared to make such an over-ambitious claim. Even the world's most efficient anti-graft body manned by highly-competent workforce would not be able to accomplish what the ACC chairman has promised to do.
The tentacles of corruption are spread everywhere here--- starting from the top most office of the administration down to Tahsil office at the grassroots.
There can be debate whether the Transparency International is right in describing Bangladesh as the most corrupt country in the world. But the fact remains that massive corruption has eaten into the vitals of the country. The victims-the common people--- desperately want an end to corruption that has vitiated their life and living. But their wishes matter little in the corridors of power. Why would men in power do what the common people ask them to do if it costs them the power and authority that they have been enjoying without question from any quarter?
Corruption brings money and money makes people powerful and influential. Corrupt politicians, officials and businessmen are well aware of the fact that people do hate them intensely. But they also know the power of money in this society. They have been banking on that for long, quite successfully. Examples? Look at the results of past national and local level elections or try to know the background of many rich and successful businessmen. The results of the coming elections, hopefully, will not be any different either. However, if the ACC proves itself to be true to its promise of reducing the extent of corruption by half within a year, there would surely be a shortage of rich and powerful candidates in the next national elections.

 

 
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