Underhand dealings in land registration offices are widespread. Some 3.6 million land records were registered in 2017-18 across the country and almost all service seekers have to pay bribes ranging between Tk 1000 and Tk 500,000.
According to a report of the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), bribes ranging between Tk 20,000 and Tk 2.0 million change hands involving recruitments, transfers, promotions and other processes. The district registrar and sub-registrar offices are among the most corrupt places in the country.
The internal control system in land offices is not functioning properly and political influence is pervasive in land offices. The people are not that conversant with rules and process of land registration. A vicious circle comprising local goons, well-connected people and land office staff do take advantage of this situation.
Shortage of competent manpower and lack of monitoring of internal control system are the major problems in the land offices. There is a need for strengthening the capacity of manpower and internal monitoring system in land offices to improve services.
Not only in land offices, there is no denying the fact that widespread and pervasive corruption in most of the government and public administration is now the number one problem of the country. It is also true that the recent trend of growing awareness amongst the people about corruption in government and public offices is beyond doubt a highly positive indication.
In a developing country like Bangladesh, the most effective action against corruption is to raise the awareness of all officers and staff in the public service and increase the level of control.
Particular emphasis should be on a consistent supervisory control. Senior officials and heads of organisations should undergo training to acquaint themselves with ways of exercising control and supervisory functions. Concrete guidance on anti-corruption measures should be made available to them so that they can respond in a competent way.
Guidance and training for public officials or politicians on codes of conduct, ethics and awareness may be considered as essential element of service. These performances should primarily focus on the legitimate activities of civil servants that can be improved by further training minimising the potential of illegitimate administrative activities.
In fact, absence of good governance encourages corruption, yet political and administrative corruption spreads on a massive scale if the administrative systems are not properly developed.
Curbing corruption is urgently needed for alleviation of poverty. A large segment of the country's population lives below the poverty line. All the successive governments since independence sanctioned huge sums of money in the budget for poverty alleviation. A major portion of the money allocated for poverty alleviation has been obtained from foreign aid and grants. But 75 per cent of this allocation has been siphoned off, thus the desired level of poverty reduction has not yet been attained. A WB report on 'Country Procurement Assessment' states: Files do not move in a government office without bribe. Bribery has reached such a level that it has become a part of the salary.
Against this backdrop, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) can firmly deal with the unbridled corruption that is so deeply embedded in the country's socio-political and administrative systems. Of late, the Commission seems to be gearing up its operations with a renewed vigour.
An anti-corruption strategy should thus be developed in order to bring about a reform in the public sector. There is a need for proper use of information technology (IT) that provides opportunity for increasing transparency.
The anti-graft watchdog recommended that the government should increase institutional competency in the land service sector to curb corruption. It also called for full digitisation of the land administration and management services.