Despite growing trends in corruption and fraudulence, the national graft-buster gained little success in trying dozens of tainted public servants, representatives, bankers, merchants and others in 2018.
The number of arrests made by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) witnessed a drastic decline in 2018 compared to those in 2016 and 2017.
The ACC arrested 57 persons in 2018, but the numbers of detainees were 182 and 388 in 2017 and 2016 respectively, according to the latest report of the anti-graft watchdog.
A total of 627 people were arrested in connection with corruption cases in the past three years.
The number of arrested bank officials was 14 in 2018 while it was 87 in 2016 and 25 in 2017.
Similarly, the number of arrested government officials was 28 in 2018;
it was 168 in 2016 and 84 in 2017.
Bangladesh slipped six steps in the Transparency International corruption perception index 2018, showing its poor performance in checking the menace.
A senior ACC official said this sharp decline in arrests is because the ACC conducted less drives than the previous years.
The number of cases was also less than those of the previous years, he told the FE.
The ACC report revealed that bankers and public servants constituted a major segment of the arrestees.
Talking to the FE, Shusashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said the decline in the number of arrests is not a positive sign.
A sharp fall in arrests indicates that the ACC might have lost its effectiveness to some extent, he observed.
The ACC should look into the matter seriously to prove its effectiveness, said the secretary of Shujan, a civil society platform.
"Despite an increase in corruption tendencies, the number of arrestees is decreasing massively. This is disappointing," he continued.
Mr Majumder said the national graft-combating force should expose itself by nabbing accused the big shots.
Citing the 'pillow corruption incident' in the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Project, he said the ACC should come out of its cocoon to nab the corrupt officials of the mega projects.
The nation wants to see tangible action through bringing influential corrupt persons to justice, Mr Majumder mentioned.
About the 'scanty' arrests, ACC lawyer Advocate Khurshid Alam Khan said one plausible reason for declining arrests is that the accused are getting anticipatory bail from the High Court.
The ACC should arrest those corrupt at enquiry stage to try more perpetrators, if it gets credible evidence of corruption against them, he said.
Mr Khan suggested enhancing vigilance on money-laundering and financial scams which are prevalent both at home and abroad.
When asked, Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said dwindling arrests or cases may have implications for the ACC.
What is more important to see is whether they are 'small fry' or 'big fish' that are being brought to trial, he told the FE.
"Some success in high-profile cases might boost public confidence in the ACC than rounds of arrests or a slew of cases chasing small fry," Mr Zaman argued.
The year 2018 proved futile for the ACC's success in trying any of the long-pending large-scale corruption cases, including those in banking, he said.
After a raid or an investigation, the ACC only puts forward recommendations to the relevant authorities for reforms or action.
But it is expected to go a step forward. It has the authority to act against individuals in an institution or a sector riddled with maladies, Mr Zaman said.
No amount of preventive efforts would be useful in the absence of harsher punishments and in a culture of impunity, he went on to say.
Talking to the FE, ACC chairman Iqbal Mahmud said, "Only arrest is not enough, rather it focuses on the tasks which are needed to do before making any arrest."
Acknowledging a decline in the number of arrests, Mr Mahmud said he found no other causes behind this fall.
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