The Anti-Corruption Commission is “largely ineffective” in investigating and preventing corruption in Bangladesh, said a Transparency International report.
The enactment of the Right to Information Act (RTI) is a significant achievement, but the act is far from achieving its objectives even after five years, said the report, “Fighting Corruption in South Asia: Building Accountability”, released yesterday.
The report said, “Whilst the ACC Act clearly states that corruption shall be the subject matter of investigation by the commission alone, actual cases are rare.”
During 2012, the commission submitted charge sheets in 588 cases but only around 57 cases resulted in successful prosecutions in that year, the report said, adding that the cases which are brought forward are often political in nature.
The report said the government in 2009 set up a committee to investigate politically motivated cases filed against politicians and others and by March 2011, the committee had withdrawn 4,687 cases, most of which involved members of the ruling party.
The committee also dropped 12 corruption cases against the prime minister as well as other cases filed against senior party leaders, known party supporters, and their relatives, it said.
The Berlin-based corruption watchdog recommended that the government ensure that appointments, transfers and removals of heads and senior staff of anti-corruption agencies and the judiciary are conducted transparently, on the basis fair criteria and with the participation of a range of stakeholders, including members of the institutions themselves.
Appointments should be made by a body independent of the executive and the legislature and its members should be appointed through an objective and transparent process, it said. Such critical decisions must not be made by the government or the president alone, the report added.
The report said the RTI was a strong one but awareness of the law remains low among public officials and it was far from achieving its objectives.
According to a survey conducted in the second year of the implementation of the RTI Act, 88 percent of those who asked for information reported having to visit the information provider's office numerous times, 29 percent reported facing harassment, 26 percent reported facing difficulties finding the information officer concerned.
Eight percent reported having to pay additional money to get the information, the survey said.
It recommended that all public agencies appoint and train public information officers so that they are aware of their responsibilities under the law and are empowered to provide information.
The report said although the government had enacted the Bangladesh Public Interest Related Information Disclosure (Protection) Act in 2011, no progress had been made to make the act effective.
Bangladesh must implement awareness raising programmes for public sector officials at all levels so that they are familiar with the whistleblowing procedures, the watchdog recommended.
Apart from Bangladesh, the study examines efforts to fight graft in five other South Asian countries -- India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- and found the corruption fighting agencies of those countries lacking the power and independence to properly investigate politicians and officials for graft.