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ACC to catch small fishes?
Mohammed Hassanul Alam

          ACC -- the much focused Anti-Corruption Commission, is to kick-off its new actions very soon, as told to the press by the ACC authorities. Indeed, the commencement of the planned actions could be a happy news for us. But possibly we are not such a lucky nation or we may not have such a good luck to be served as told or to be happy about the plan. Sorry for depending so much on the abstract thing called LUCK as we don't know any remedy for sloth or way out to have our institutions work for us -- as they should --though we the public are paying for them and bearing their expenses.
It is learnt from a report published last month that the ACC has developed a scheme for forming "Trap Parties" to hunt the bribes takers!
These trap parties have been conceptualised to start the ACC-designed drive against bribe-takers. As per its plan, the Anti-Corruption Commission is going to inform the people very soon through the media about its trapping drive and the process of lodging complaints with the Commission against the dishonest officials.
ACC authorities told the press "In order to trap the bribe-takers, we need complaints". The report further added that to inform people about the drive and the process of complaining to the ACC, the details will be publicised through the media, possibly within a couple of days.
The decision to combat the cancerous menace of corruption was taken in an ACC meeting amid widespread allegations that nothing moves in many government offices without speed-money.
The meeting also approved the strategies to lay traps to catch those who demand kickbacks in return for work. If anybody complains to the Commission that bribe has been demanded from him, the ACC team with the help of the complainant himself would trap the bribe-seeker to catch him red-handed.
The ACC informed that the Commission has targeted 12 government organisations wherein the watchdog would catch the corrupts with traps using the bribers as decoys.
Police, lower courts, land registry offices, license offices, container ports (Customs), airports, Chittagong customs and health and education sectors are among the spots where mousetraps will be laid.
This is an appreciable initiative, no doubt. But there are some questions that need replies from the ACC as we feel that what is necessary to come from this initiative is nothing but success.
We all know, the ACC has been suffering from some administrative problems that are hindering the pursuit of its basic objectives. Our opposition parties have been claiming that the ACC is an eye-wash, designed by the government in the wake of massive corruption and the government's miserable failure to minimise it. How would the ACC come up to reply to these questions or criticisms by its critics? If the ACC itself is in problem how will it function? Hope, the ACC will clarify the present situation about its scope of proper functioning and independence. It is a clarification that time demands. For the shake of an institutional integrity, if we even think that the ACC has all the powers to act on its own -- we are bound to make some queries about the ACC's recently planned drives.
The questions are: whom does the ACC plan to catch? Upto what level of bribe-takers? Why only the government officials? Are there not any groups or body else guilty of the same offence? May we ask the ACC -- how much powerful is it? Will the ACC be daring enough to catch a Parliament Member (MP), Mayor or a Union Parishad Chairman?
Our MPs have purchased tax-free cars and then sold those car to dealers or to others at handsome profit depriving the state from revenues. Is not it corruption? Does the ACC have the jurisdiction to hunt these MPs? If not, then who is it going to hunt? Our honourable MPs have been taking all financial benefits from the state as the opposition Members of Parliament havebeen doing without attending the parliament sessions from 1991 till to-date.
Is it not corruption? Will you say that it is not a bigger corruption than taking bribes? He who takes bribe against services (I condemn it personally) provides something in exchange and it is surely a lesser crime than that of an MP who took away a lot of our state money for the last 15 years without doing any work for his or her constituency that he or she is bound to serve as per his or her constitutional obligation.
What about the utility services bills (gas, electricity, water, and telephone bills etc.) pending for payment by many of our honourable MPs since the independence of Bangladesh? They owes the state millions of takas as unpaid utility services bills. Is not this corruption and a greater corruption than bribe? What are the observations of the ACC? Can the ACC dare to realise the money from the honourable MPs?
There is no such instance in any country of the world like the ones that our honourable MPs have created. This is the high time for the ACC to prove its honest intention as an anti-corruption commission. Why should only the small fishes -- the officials only form its targeted group?
Will it bring any good to or reduce corruption in our society? No, it will never bring about any appreciable result. Because, corruption in our society is patronised from the top level.
So if we cannot hunt the BIG FISHES-like MPs, corrupt businessmen, trapping only officials will not bring any good to the state or to the society. It sounds frustrating -- but it is the hard reality.
In our country we have the scope to whiten the black money -- then how can we expect that forming or sending trap parties will help eliminate bribe or corruption?
Who will dare to be a complainant against an MP or a Mayor or say about the Chairman of a Union Parishad? Who will safeguard his or her life if he or she dares to do so? So trap parties planned by the ACC are bound to meet with failure. Maybe, some officials will be caught but this will never help eliminate bribe or corruption from our administration and the society.
Corruption is a relative term. What should we define as corruption? A government servant getting a salary of say BDT 8500 and his or her minimum cost of living is about BDT12500. It is the dire necessity of meeting the living cost that drives him or her to take bribe for survival against some sorts of service to someone looking for it (He is supposed to get it without paying bribe, of course). But an MP, who is enjoying tax-free car, is enjoying financial benefits without any service rendered in the parliament, such as our opposition leader.
Now-a-days, -- especially after the independence, we are concerned about money only -- not about the way we are earning it. This has created a major social chaos and resulted in cruelties, conflicts of interest etc. Everyone is running for speed money. Smuggling is one of the major sources of black money. How will the ACC handle this corruption -- where the BIG FISHES are always out of reach of the law enforcers? This ugly black money has a great impact on our social and political life.
If we really want a corruption-free country then we -- to enable the country to give the minimum services to its citizens as per the constitution should reform our social and political outlook.
We are to define for us what is a successful life and what does welfare politics mean. If it is measured with how much MONEY we earn or how much money we can spend at the election then it is a dream or a mirage for our people that some institutions, like the ACC, will eliminate corruption from the country or the society. And for countries, like Bangladesh, so deeply caught up within the vicious claws of corruption -- it is all the more true.


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