Financial anomaly at EC demands full investigation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 13, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:34 AM, January 13, 2021

Editorial

Financial anomaly at EC demands full investigation

Activities of such a crucial organisation must be fully transparent

We must appreciate the work of The Office of the Comptroller and Audit General (CAG), which has detected significant financial anomalies in the Election Commission's expenditure on paying many of its trainers ahead of the last parliamentary polls and upazila elections. Objections were also raised against giving allowances for special positions that were not approved by the finance ministry.

According to EC documents, audit objections involving Tk 1.5 crore was raised on giving allowances to "special speakers" and "course advisers"— unapproved positions that were held by the chief election commissioner, election commissioners and top officials of the EC secretariat, including its secretary. These position holders had also collected training allowances without showing any proof of attendance, apart from their signatures on the acquittance role. Further objections were raised involving Tk 47.44 lakh for training programmes at the Electoral Training Institute, of which the same person had collected allowances for different trainings that took place at different corners of the country on the same day—even though that is physically impossible. All of these led to the government incurring substantial losses.

The EC's response so far has been to say that such objections cannot be raised since the commission is not under any ministry or government division, and so does not need approval from anyone for its expenditures. Really? Does that mean that the EC, which is responsible for auditing the country's democratic elections, does not believe that it should be the target of any audits? That it does not have to answer to the public? Surely the public has a right to know about the EC's expenditures, given that the money being spent comes from the public exchequer—i.e., the public.

Thus far, the CAG has only asked the EC to either send it a satisfactory answer or refund the money. However, given that the EC is responsible for holding and monitoring the highest democratic activity in the country—the parliamentary elections—any anomaly or suspected corruption will naturally cast doubts on all its undertakings and is thus cause for serious concern. That is why we believe the matter demands urgent investigation. Given the immense amount of public trust that is required in the election commission and its members for any democracy to properly function, the public has a right to verify through full investigation whether members of the commission responsible for safeguarding the country's democracy is involved in any corruption or not.

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