Corruption in Bangladesh cripples development


Published in E-Bangladesh.com May 30

Whatever the extent of corruption in Bangladesh is, it has been prevailing here since long, and reportedly in large scale for the last decade. It’s proved in surveys and also through the number of corruption cases, media reports and remarks by ruling party stalwarts, and these days even by incumbent senior ministers.

But our prime minister denies it categorically, and she did it again on May 21—two days after the finance minister and the chief of Anti-Corruption Commission said there was corruption in almost every sector, especially in police, education, health and land administration. The two important figures also said it was impossible to establish rule of law and good governance if corruption was uprooted. However, we don’t witness any significant role of the present government over the corruption allegations against its ministers, MPs and party leaders, businessmen, bureaucrats and police. Thus sensing that impunity can possibly be got, now the general people have indulged in corruption severely and don’t hesitate to offer bribes to officials of government and non-government organisations, and take bribes as well. Bribing and cutting money from allocated budget have become an undisclosed tradition in our society.

The impunity for corruption given silently to the rich people, mainly the ministers and the bureaucrats, has left a critical condition for the future generation as moral values have been declining among the masses. It paves way for the next generation who are supposed to be become “super corrupts” if Bangladesh Bank, the government’s ministries concerned, the anti-graft body ACC and law enforcement wings don’t or can’t show any miracle against corruption in the near future.

Even though such a possibility is bleak we expect that there will be effective measures in place immediately to stop the image of the government and the nation in a whole from tarnished further.

Many mega projects of the government have been lagging behind deadline and many others stalled because of massive corruption and allegations of corruption. The issue of Padma Multi-purpose Bridge Project comes first, regarding which key lending agency the World Bank raised allegations of corruption last year and suspended its funding the crucial project.

But against the allegations of asking money from bidders to get contracts of the project against former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain and his family firm, the government high-ups including its head are still placing statements defending the minister, who was after several months shifted to another ministry. The government has also been looking for alternative funds – especially from Malaysia and China – to start the project within its tenure ending early 2014, since it was one of the pledges in its election manifesto.

Even the finance minister had recently said the World Bank claims can’t be accepted as there had been no transaction of money taken place. The premier also threatened the Bank for raising false allegation. Therefore, the government is almost set to involve a Malaysian consortium who will manage the necessary fund, build the bridge and operate it for certain years. A memorandum of understanding was signed in April and formal proposals would be submitted this month.

Meanwhile, former railways minister Suranjit Sengupta, who became a minister after over 50 years of his political career with the Awami League, came under the spotlight earlier last month after his assistant personal secretary and two senior railway officials were caught with 70 lakh taka in a microbus—thanks to its driver who drove the vehicle into the BGB headquarters at Peelkhana and shouted saying there were illegal money.

All the three denied corruption behind the money, while the APS claimed it was his own money. There were allegations that the amount – collected through recruitment business in the railway – was being carried to the minister’s residence in that night of April 9.

Even though the three were released the next day, the whistleblower driver is still missing.

The seizure incident and the developments afterwards have so far been facing severe criticism from the media, civil society and obviously from the opposition.

Suranjit passed the next days in a tense situation, sacked his APS and suspended the railway officials, formed probe committees himself with senior railway officials but did not resign voluntarily despite outcry from different quarters of the society. He resigned a day after he met the premier on April 17. But surprisingly the prime minister the next day retained him in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.

Another surprise came a month later, two days after one of the two railway probe committees declared that Suranjit was not involved in the 70 lakh taka seizure incident. Until then the other committee that was investigating anomalies in the recruitment was yet to submit its report. After initial probe, it however confirmed that there had been business. As the railway committee gave Suranjit a clean chit, he declared through a press conference to return to politics as he was a parliament member from a Sunamganj constituency.

Suranjit also an Awami League presidium member however was not given his job he was carrying out with extensive programmes for the last four months until the haul. The ministry was newly created after being separated from the Ministry of Communications.

However, the railway probe body to look into the irregularities of the recruitment process has recently submitted its findings to the ministry citing that there had been massive corruption and misconduct and accused at least 25 officials including the general manager of east zone, who was on the microbus with Suranjit’s APS.

Communications Minister Obaidul Quader, who is also in charge of the railway ministry, has said that there would be no corruption in the railway sector and punitive measures would be taken against those involved in wrongdoing. Let’s see what happens.

Recently, alleged corruption allegations against state minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku were revealed by a journalist of a national daily. But since then, the journalist was being threatened and on May 14 he was tortured in public in Pabna town by the nephew of the powerful state minister and his cohorts. As the brother of the journalist filed a case against the criminals and Tuku failed to reach a mutual understanding over withdrawing the case, ironically, the next day he was sued in an extortion case.

The Kaler Kantha journalist revealed how Tuku was plundering government fund in programmes like Kabikha (food for work) and TR (test relief), which are aimed at the poor, by involving his relatives. The report also cited how Tuku was dividing Awami League politics in Pabna by throwing the leaders and workers of another AL leader Prof Abu Sayeed, called to be a reformist.

Last year, it was reported in media that the top officials of the post and telecommunications ministry and Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission were involved in awarding “six” licences to private sector companies to install international terrestrial cables, even though there was provision for “three”. It has been alleged that the number was increased to create scope for Summit Communications Ltd, a firm owned by the brother of a minister.

In the same ICT sector, the latest blow of corruption allegation comes in the bidding process for the country’s first satellite project Bangabandhu-1. Reports say the US firm awarded the consultancy job did not meet the required qualifications mentioned in the bidding papers, including prior experience of conducting 10 similar jobs. Neither the Space Partnership International, winner of the bid, or its partner—which said it was a sub-contractor instead—do not have the required experience to get the contract.

Don’t these instances, a faction of what is being reported in media, give a clear picture of corruption, nepotism, and blunder of public money for a few people’s interests? Then why does the head of the government deny and let the ill-practice continue and spread more which will eventually turn the country a safe-heaven of corruption?

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