Effective initiatives needed to curb corruption
The people of Bangladesh have attained independence under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through the glorious Liberation War and the historic struggle of the people of this country. The driving force behind this long struggle was the dream of a happy, prosperous and peaceful society. But in the 51-year history of the country, that dream has been repeatedly thwarted and misguided.
In his address to the nation on December 25, 1974, Bangabandhu said, “In order to build a happy and prosperous country, the people have to work hard to increase production. But one thing should not be forgotten, it is doubtful whether the fate of this unfortunate country can be reversed if the character does not change. We all need self-criticism, self-restraint and self-purification from nepotism, corruption and self-deception.’’
Laws, regulations, plans and various strategies have been formulated and their implementation is continuing. Strict measures are being taken against corruption. But state regulation, enactment and enforcement of laws alone are not enough to establish good governance. Eradicating corruption requires holistic and uninterrupted action. As a supportive strategy of the overall initiative in establishing good governance, ‘Commitment to building a golden Bengal: National Integrity Strategy’ has been formulated. The implementation of this strategy requires the active participation of state institutions, civil society and private industry and commerce. From the very beginning of human life, activities have to be taken from the family and educational institutions to develop character.
The government’s activities are moving forward on the principle of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against corruption and irregularities. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken a tough stance in this regard. No matter how influential and close to the government or the ruling party, no criminal is exempt. The government and the party are also reluctant to take responsibility for someone’s personal crime. This tough stance of the government is being appreciated by all including civil society. The various statements of the Prime Minister also reflect the principle of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against irregularities and corruption. Action is being taken against those involved in corruption and irregularities. Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been outraged by a spate of irregularities, especially in the health sector. She called for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and cracking down on corruption. Various disciplinary measures have also been taken against some partakers in the health sector for corruption during the Covid-19 period. The government has also given a stern message by immediately dismissing certain public representatives against whom allegations have been made during the relief operations. Many have also been arrested and punished.
During the incumbent government’s tenure, there has always been an uncompromising attitude against corruption and irregularities. In particular, the government is trying to implement the promise of establishing ‘Bangladesh of corruption-free Good Governance’ in the election manifesto.
Anti-corruption drives have been intensified under the direction of the Prime Minister along with the anti-terrorism and anti-drug drives. We know that everyone has goodwill and sincerity to suppress irregularities and corruption. However, to prevent such corruption and irregularities in advance, the institutions concerned including the ACC should be active in this regard. Their surveillance needs to be tightened. No matter how influential a person is involved in corruption and irregularities, no one should be spared – that is everyone’s expectation.
Be that as it may, corruption and irregularities are still major problems in Bangladesh. It is believed that if the Zero Tolerance Policy against Corruption is properly implemented, Bangladesh will be able to be included in the list of developed countries. No one can deny that the country has made a lot of progress in the last 14 years of the government. But it is also true that in the last 14 years despite all efforts, the image of the government has been tarnished to some extent on the issue of irregularities and corruption.
The main precondition for curbing corruption is to establish the rule of law. It should be ensured that the law is being applied equally to all. Many have also spoken of the need to build a national consensus against corruption. There is no doubt that the formation of a national consensus against corruption could be difficult if the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) shows signs of bias in its work. The ACC must be able to work independently and with transparency. Otherwise, there will be no end to the corruption that is spreading. Putting an end to corruption is necessary if we want development and prosperity. This requires a strong political will.
The role of the media in Bangladesh against corruption is commendable. Corruption is one of the toughest obstacles to development. Corruption is not just a problem in Bangladesh, it is a global problem. There is corruption in many developed countries of the world. In many countries, governments and even heads of governments have been changed because of corruption. The present government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is moving ahead in the development journey. Corruption and terrorism have been identified as the major obstacles to development and work is being done in the country in this regard.
In Bangladesh, the ACC is more active than ever before. The ACC is not only active in curbing corruption, but also through social activities they are involving the people in preventing corruption. Corruption is a social disorder. The whole society has to come forward to eradicate this disease. In this case, politicians, businesspersons, civil society and media all have to build a social movement by creating awareness to prevent corruption. We have to create hatred against corruption. Textbooks need to add anti-corruption messages to create distaste for corruption among children.
With the efforts of the ACC and with the cooperation of all, it will accelerate the pace of development of Bangladesh by trying to eradicate corruption from Bangladesh forever.
Bangladesh has been a country with potential since the beginning. But because of corruption, we have not been able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us. Today, our development, progress and prosperity are hampered by corruption and so are honesty, ethics and values. It is safe to say that growth could have been greater had it not been for corruption. Bangladesh could have gone further if not for a large section of people gathering immense illicit wealth through corruption. Without corruption, the face of Bangladesh would have changed. Bangladesh would have been one of the most developed and prosperous countries in Asia.
Many of the people of this country have become disappointed as the level of corruption has not decreased much. As a matter of fact, in some cases, it has increased. Policymakers say that while they have succeeded in many areas, they have not succeeded in curbing corruption. It is doubtful whether we will ever be able to reach the expected level without being able to curb corruption. To prevent corruption, senior officials including ministers and secretaries of the ministry should play a leading role. The picture we get when we look at the various ministries and their various departments in this regard is disappointing. As long as a person holding a senior position in any ministry cannot rid himself of corruption, the advice to his subordinates to stay free from corruption will not be of any use.
The ACC is officially responsible for curbing corruption. When allegations of corruption are made, the ACC arranges for an investigation by the relevant bodies. If an irregularity is found in the investigation, a statement is made; and a complaint is lodged through a full investigation after the statement. In many cases, the number of accused mentioned in the indictment is much higher than the number of accused mentioned in the statement.
Although the ACC cases are based on documentary evidence, it is often seen that acquittals are taking place. The rate of conviction is meagre in proportion to the number of ACC cases and in most of the cases in which a person who is not mentioned in the post-investigation statement is included as an accused. To ensure maximum punishment in the ACC cases, the investigating officers must conduct the investigation fairly. The ACC needs to play a stronger role. If we can make the country free from corruption, the country will definitely go further.
The writer is a columnist and researcher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org