Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid yesterday asked Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) to produce proof to substantiate its recent survey report on private universities, otherwise withdraw it and offer apology to the nation.
According to the report titled "Private universities: challenges of good governance and way out", a section of officials at the education ministry, University Grants Commission and private universities are involved in illegal money transactions at different stages -- from getting approval to setting up the universities and appointing vice chancellors, pro-vice chancellors and treasurers to awarding certificates to students.
“If you [TIB] can't prove it [the report], you'll have to withdraw it and apologise to the nation," Nahid said in a private members' resolution in parliament.
He lambasted TIB, terming its report misleading and baseless.
The minister claimed that the graft watchdog did not have any evidence in favour of the accusations but published the report just to put the government in an "uncomfortable situation" and to confuse people.
"TIB claimed that it had been investigating the matter for two years. But it hadn't come to us.
"The survey is motivated. All our procedures regarding giving approval to private universities are absolutely transparent and anybody can check it."
After assuming power in 2009, the Sheikh Hasina-led previous government had taken various measures to root out anomalies in the operation of private universities, the education minister said, adding that the situation was much better now.
He said his ministry yesterday began investigating the allegations of TIB.
"I'll urge them to come up with evidence. If proved, we'll accept any punishment.”
The minister's reaction is typical of reactions a section in positions of power give, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman told The Daily Star.
“It is indeed yet another disappointing example of denial syndrome that in the end protects and promotes corruption.”
The TIB official assured the minister of fullest cooperation to help him better understand the report with all facts, data and analysis.
TIB is glad that the government has taken the report seriously, he said.
"We urge the ministry to devote its energy to effectively addressing the allegations of irregularities and corruption rather than shooting the messenger."
The ministry would make a mistake if it considers TIB's report a criminal investigation. "It is a research report," Iftekharuzzaman added.