Transparency International, Bangladesh has once again revealed just how dire the state of corruption is in the country and how incredibly widespread. The corruption exposed this time concerned important rural infrastructure development projects.
According to the study, block allocation of hundreds of crores of taka made to lawmakers for implementing the projects returned poor benefits because of political influence, nepotism, extortion and the lack of a specific legal framework and monitoring. And the quality of work in about two-thirds of the schemes to build rural roads, construct bridges and culverts under IRIDP was substandard. Yet, that is where most of the money was focused as this way it is easier to divert and siphon funds out of these projects, the report concluded.
Remarkably, researchers could not find any existence of 26 schemes, although final bills for those were withdrawn. And according to estimates, financial corruption among various stakeholders during different stages of tender, withdrawal of final bill and security deposit amounted to a staggering Tk 27.20-41.73 crore.
All this, along with the massive corruption that has been revealed in the recent past, makes a mockery of the ruling party's so-called policy of having zero-tolerance against corruption. Just imagine the amount of development that could have been achieved with all the taxpayer's money that has been wasted simply under one development scheme, and all the people that this could have benefitted. Yet, for decades this continued without any repercussion for those involved, as they mainly belonged to the ruling party or were somehow affiliated with it.
While ordinary people were generally restricted from participating in these projects, lawmakers whose primarily role is to hold the government accountable could not resist but involve themselves in the very projects they were meant to be overseeing. And corruption in those projects was predictably high—which is what happens when the fox is allowed to guard the henhouse.
There needs to be some serious reckoning for this. The authorities, who have sat on their hands while all this was going on, need to come out of their slumber and hold those responsible for such extensive irregularities to account. Moreover, the TIB study gives numerous recommendations on how to mitigate mismanagement and corruption going forward which the authorities should urgently adopt.