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TI report calls for truly independent Anti-Corruption Commission and Ombudsman in Bangladesh

Transparency in public administration in Bangladesh is hampered by conflicts of interest and political interference, says TI report. Urgent reform is needed to tackle corruption in procurement, political finance, lower judiciary and police

"Systemic corruption poses a serious challenge to efforts to promote good governance in Bangladesh," said Professor Muzaffer Ahmad, Chief Researcher on a new report published today by Transparency International. Urgent steps are needed to address "the lack of laws on political party finance, poor service conditions and low salary structure for public officials, and the fact that key watchdog agencies lack adequate, well-trained and skilled staff," said Professor Ahmad.

The Bureau of Anti-Corruption has been the main agency responsible for controlling corruption, but its impact has been blunted "as it is run out of the office of the Prime Minister and is subject to political influence," states the National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Bangladesh 2003, published today. "The creation of the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission is a positive step forward, but there is a serious need to ensure a truly independent Anti-Corruption Commission with real teeth," said Professor Ahmad. "Key to the effectiveness of the commission is its financial independence, which must be ensured as evidence of the government's commitment to curb corruption", said Iftekhar Zaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh. TI Bangladesh is the national chapter of Transparency International (TI), the leading non-governmental organisation devoted to fighting corruption worldwide.

The report also calls for the "immediate appointment of an Ombudsman" to address "the absence of a complaints mechanism for the general public to seek redress against any maladministration." Regulations concerning procurement of goods and services also need to be updated and made more transparent, said Professor Ahmad, a Trustee of TI Bangladesh.

Politicians are singled out for a lack of accountability. "Politicians give priority to personal or party interests over national interests," states the report. "Once elected, political parties tend to treat Government apparatus as an extension of their own political party machinery." There are no rules to regulate political party funding for elections while political interference in the recruitment of civil servants heightens the low esteem in which Bangladeshis hold public officials, state the report's authors.

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Bangladesh 2003, which was made possible with the funding of the UK Government's Department for International Development, "identifies a number of priority areas for reform," said Professor Ahmad, "in particular weak public sector recruitment policies, a lack of performance monitoring mechanisms for government departments, weak enforcement of conflict-of-interest rules at all levels, the absence of regulation of party political finance, and the lack of independence of the lower judiciary." The Public Administration Service Reforms Commission recommendations to improve transparency and accountability in service delivery also need to be implemented, he added.

According to Peter Rooke, TI Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, the report on Bangladesh "should encourage the Bangladeshi government to strengthen its engagement with the ADB/OECD Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Asia and the Pacific, which focuses on identifying national priorities for action by governments". Under the action plan, adopted in Tokyo on 30 November 2001, governments agreed to select two or three priorities from a comprehensive list of anti-corruption proposals to meet their particular needs. However, said Rooke, "out of 21 signatory countries, Bangladesh is one of the very few yet to submit its self-assessment of its anti-corruption efforts."

It is also "high time that Bangladesh signed the UN Convention against Corruption, already signed by 106 countries around the world," said Rooke, "Since the UN Convention lays the basis for enhanced international co-operation in law enforcement, information exchange and technical assistance, it can greatly assist Bangladesh in its anti-corruption efforts."

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Bangladesh 2003 praises the Bangladesh Election Commission for holding fair elections at the national and local level. In addition, Parliament, civil society and the higher courts "each have stable structures, consistency in approach and function, commitment to values such as democracy, plurality and accountability," states the report. However, the authors criticise the lack of authority of the Public Accounts Committee to oversee the service delivery of government departments, and call for a strengthening of Audit institutions, such as the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The TI report also points to an urgent need to address extremely high levels of corruption in the police through better training and a more professional career structure and service conditions. The authors call for a strengthening of the independence and professionalism of the lower judiciary. Measures are necessary to ensure "transparency of proceedings, closer supervision, monitoring and evaluation of judges' performance, frequent inspection of the lower courts by the higher courts, and clear guidelines on sanctions for misconduct of court officials."

"Corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in public life continue to be a burden on the economy," states the report. Over the past decade, negative points have included "deterioration of law and order, non-governance, lack of implementation of election pledges, political instability, abuse of governmental power and lack of access for public's redress for human rights violations."

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report - Bangladesh 2003 was prepared by M. Farid, assisted by Shamaila Mahbub, Muhammad Anwarul Amin, Md. Abdul Alim, Sydur Rahman Molla and Md. Imam Uddin of TI Bangladesh, led by Professor Muzaffer Ahmad under the auspices of a programme developed by the Transparency International Secretariat together with Professor Alan Doig and Stephanie McIvor of the Teesside Business School. It is the latest in a series of TI country study reports on national integrity systems.

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report - Bangladesh 2003 and other country study reports can be downloaded at: www.transparency.org


For any press enquiries please contact

Abdul Alim, TI Bangladesh (Dhaka)
Tel/Fax: +880 2 9884811
alim@ti-bangladesh.org
www.ti-bangladesh.org

Jeff Lovitt, TI Secretariat (Berlin, Germany)
Tel: +49-30-3438 2045
Fax: +49-30-3470 3912
press@transparency.org