12 days ago

Drive against corruption

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In her budget speech, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina tells the Jatiyo Sangsad that her government has started a tough anti-corruption drive that will spare none irrespective of positions. If the freezing of several dozens of bank accounts and all the moveable and immoveable property of former Inspector General of Police (IPG) Benazir Ahmed, his wife and daughters and formation of a committee to investigate into illegal acquisition of outrageous amount of wealth by a  sacked National Board of Revenue (NBR) official Motiur Rahman are any guide, her claim is hardly contentious. On complaint from the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC), a court has also ordered the seizure of another NBR official Abu Mahmud Faisal on charge of amassing huge wealth by illicit means.

However, there is a slip between the cup and the lip. Benazir's case was not taken up by any security agency or watchdog body until a Bangla contemporary published a detailed investigative report. Motiur Rahman was exposed by a goat not by any security agency, as a ruling party Member of Parliament (MP) sarcastically told parliament. Abu Mahmud Faisal's case may be a follow-up of that of Motiur Rahman who reportedly formed a syndicate of like-minded NBR officials under him. Anyway, the ACC moved the case implicating Faisal. Credit certainly goes to the government for the procedure to go ahead in all such cases. Given the relaxation of anti-graft laws, rules and related provisions over the years, public servants have been unduly pampered and by default encouraged to indulge in corruption. The incorporation of Section 41(1) in the Government Service Act, 2018 making it mandatory to seek permission for the law enforcers prior to arresting a public servant was surely an attempt to pamper government officials of the republic. The High Court observed during its verdict against it that it was contradictory to the constitution of the country.

This is, however, not all about indulging the public servants. The amendment to the Government Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1985 had got "reprimand" included as a penalty for proven corruption following investigation. But the original provisions were compulsory retirement, "dismissal from service" or "removal from service". Before this, relaxation of another provision cleared the way for government employees to hide their wealth. As per the Government Servant (Conduct) Rules,1985, submission of wealth statement every year was mandatory. After the amendment to that rule in 2002, they now have to submit the statement every five years. Reportedly, many officials even do not bother at all to do so.

With relaxations of such basic provisions, it is impossible to maintain transparency of the administration. In a way, all such legal provisions are actually protecting the interests of dishonest officials, allowing them to form their powerful coteries within the system as did Motiur Rahman. Their unearned money power not only corners honest officials but also leaves a highly deleterious impact on the system of administration, encouraging a regime of graft. So these legal provisions have to be made stricter and watchdog bodies' scrutiny more incisive in order to root out corruption in the administration. If the administration is transparent and demonstrates integrity in its functioning, the nation's socio-economic progress will be far more spectacular than achieved so far.

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