Padma Bridge and the UN Convention Against Corruption | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 12, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:32 PM, February 15, 2017

Bottom Line

Padma Bridge and the UN Convention Against Corruption


For all latest news, follow The Daily Star's Google News channel.

On June 29, the World Bank cancelled its $1.2 billion credit in support of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project, saying that it had found evidence of high-level corruption among government public officials and others. The government dismissed the allegation saying that since World Bank did not release "a single penny" for the bridge how could corruption take place. It seems that divergence of views between the government and the World Bank centres on what constitutes corruption. Corruption is defined as use or abuse of power by a public official for personal benefit that accrues to that official directly or indirectly. Corruption takes place in secrecy or, as they say, "under the table" and is very difficult to prove unless there is documentary and/or circumstantial evidence to substantiate it. Let us examine the issue from the perspective of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which is the first legally binding international anti-corruption multi-lateral agreement. The Convention came into force in 2005 and 160 state are parties to it, including Bangladesh which ratified it on February 27, 2007. Accordingly, Bangladesh is bound by the provisions of the UN Convention. The UNCAC obliges its state parties, including Bangladesh, to implement a wide and detailed range of anti-corruption measures affecting their laws, institutions and practices. These measures aim among others: * To promote the prevention of corruption; * To criminalise most prevalent forms of corruption; and * To seek international cooperation to prevent and detect corruption. Article 1 (c) states that the purpose of the Convention is "to promote integrity, accountability, and proper management of public affairs and public property." Under Article 2(a), "public official" has been defined as "any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative or judicial office of a state party, whether appointed or elected, whether permanent or temporary, whether paid or unpaid, irrespective of that person's seniority, and (ii) any other person who performs a public function …or provides a public service as defined in the domestic law of the state party." This means that a minister of the government falls under the definition of "a public official" under this Article of the UN Convention and under Article 152 of the Bangladesh Constitution, a person holding or acting in any office of emolument in the service of the Republic is a public/government servant. For prevention of corruption, Article 5(2) states that each state party "shall endeavour to establish and promote effective practices aimed at the prevention of corruption." Article 6(1) stipulates that each state party "shall in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system ensure the existence of a body or bodies as appropriate to prevent corruption." This means a state party shall establish an anti-corruption state institution like Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission. The constituted anti-corruption body should be granted by the state party "the necessary independence…. to enable the body to carry out its functions effectively and free from any undue influence." (Article 6.2) In this connection, it is reported that Bangladesh ACC chairman said that the two main political parties in the country are "not sincere" in fulfilling their electoral pledges to tackle corruption. He further said in a media briefing that "the amendment to the Anti-Corruption Act has remained pending for the last one and a half years. I hope it will be amended during the current parliament session." The above statement can hardly be a compliment for the government to fight corruption through the ACC as envisaged by Article 6(2) of the UN Convention. Although corruption has not been defined in the UN Convention, under the heading of "Bribery of national public officials" Article 15(b) describes it as "the solicitation or acceptance by a public official directly or indirectly of an undue advantage for himself or herself or another person or entity, in order that the official acts or refrains from acting in the exercise of his or her official duties." Under this Article "solicitation" or asking or seeking of an undue advantage by a "public official" constitutes corruption. Another difference of opinion between the government and the World Bank is on the use of the phrase "credible evidence" by the World Bank. Opinion varies because the evidence which may be credible to one may not be credible to another, and it depends totally on the context in which evidence of corruption is looked at. Given the World Bank's press release stating "evidence corroborated by a variety of sources, which points to of a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC Lavalin executives and private individuals," it can be argued that the allegation of the World Bank falls within the ambit of the provisions of the UN Convention. To prove the allegation baseless, many in the country have suggested to the government to start a high-level judicial investigation. Furthermore, there are numerous examples in Asian and European countries when ministers stood aside while investigation proceeded when allegation of corruption or wrong doing was leveled against them, and when it was found they were innocent they came back to their positions. Corruption is an evil phenomenon that exists in all countries, but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive because it hurts the poor disproportionately. During the meeting of G-20 in Mexico in June, corruption came up for discussion and the leaders urged all stakeholders to play an active role against it.

The writer is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Related Topics

Stay updated on the go with The Daily Star Android & iOS News App. Click here to download it for your device.

Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 22222

Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2222

Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2225

Leave your comments

Top News

Top News