The politically biased process of recruiting Anti-Corruption Commission's chairman and commissioners holds back the ACC from working independently and going for an all-out drive against the "big fishes", Transparency International Bangladesh's Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said yesterday.
He made the comment after the TIB launched a research report on ACC activities at a press conference in the capital.
Talking to The Daily Star, Iftekharuzzaman claimed that as the recruitment process was linked to political blessings, the commission often lacks the courage and capacity to discharge its duties properly.
"The individual's identity, status and political affiliation become the determining factor [in dealing with corruption allegations]," he said.
He also said political recruitment leads to political bias and lack of objectivity.
Currently, a selection committee prepares a list of prospective candidates for the posts of ACC chairman and commissioners. The president then picks the candidates for appointment to the posts.
Pointing out examples of international good practices including in some Asian countries, Iftekharuzzaman said after the shortlist is prepared by the selection committee, identity and professional credentials of prospective candidates can be disclosed for public information and feedback.
At the press conference, the TIB executive director underscored the need for making the recruitment process more transparent for the effective functioning of the corruption watchdog.
He said the selection process was linked to the independence of the ACC, but that independence now remains only on papers.
He also said the ACC was not free from political influence and thus it failed to act neutrally while dealing with graft.
The TIB suggested holding public hearing on candidates for ACC chairman and commissioner posts before the final selection to earn trust in the selection process.
The TIB research on the ACC activities is a follow-up to a previous research on the same matter. A research report, titled "Initiatives to Strengthen Anti-Graft Organisation", was launched yesterday at the press conference at TIB's Dhanmondi office.
TIB's Senior Programme Manager Shahzada M Akram and Programme Manager Shammi Laila Islam conducted the research based on interviews, views-exchange meetings and assessment of documents.
While reading out the findings, Shammi said those were based on 50 indicators under six categories -- independence and dignity; finance and human resource; accountability and integrity; enquiry, investigation and case; prevention, education and outreach activities and assistance and external Affairs.
The ACC has scored 60 percent point marks, meaning it lacks six points to reach "the top stage" from its current "medium stage". To achieve above 67 percent points, the anti-graft watchdog needs to improve in some of its indicators, she said.
Shammi also said, "People have negative opinions on how ACC carries out investigations into multiple allegations of similar magnitude. Even ACC officials have said that people lack confidence in them.
"People believe that the ACC attaches importance to allegations of petty graft while there is no visible success in catching the major players. There is also concern over ACC officials' skills and professionalism."
The research report said, "The commission usually fails to complete investigations in time. There are also allegations that ACC officials take bribe."
The report further said investigations carried out by the ACC were below standard and as a result, the success rate compared to the number of cases filed with the graft watchdog was not satisfactory.
The TIB recommended amending Anti-Corruption Act 2004, Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2012 and Sarkari Chakri Ain 2018 for proper empowerment of the ACC.
Prof Dr Perween Hasan, chairperson of TIB trustee board, and Sumaiya Khair, adviser, executive management, was also present.