Unlike previous years, the Anti-Corruption Commission carried out a crackdown on graft suspects under the reconstituted commission in 2016, earning public praise.
“I think the commission is doing well. A sense of fear has been created among graft suspects after it launched the anti-corruption drives to catch them,” former ACC chairman Ghulam Rahman told UNB.
Former senior secretary Iqbal Mahmood took the helm of the commission as its chairman on 14 March last and initiated some steps to strengthen it and win people’s trust.
According to an ACC senior official, who wished not to be named, people had earlier lost their faith in the commission due to its weakness to fight corruption in the country, but the ACC has regained a bit of public trust under the newly formed Commission.
Now, the national anti-graft body takes steps immediately to launch probe and arrest graft suspects as soon as it finds any graft allegation, he said adding that bringing graft suspects to justice is the main success of the Commission in 2016.
Vigorous drives on
Official data show around 400 graft suspects were arrested in different graft allegations in 2016. Of them, 388 were arrested in the past nine months of the present commission. The previous commission had not been able to arrest so many graft suspects even during its entire four-year tenure.
Ghulam Rahman said it should continue its ongoing drives to arrest graft suspects to regain people’s full trust in the commission. If the ACC can mete out punishment to the graft suspects following proper probe, it will bring a long-term positive results in checking graft, he said.
The ACC filed a total of 331 cases against graft suspects and submitted 514 charge-sheets before different courts in 2016. Some 81 cases were disposed of in courts during the period. Of them, graft suspects were convicted in 49 cases, showing a 61 per cent success rate against only 37 per cent in 2015.
The incumbent commission reshuffled its lawyers’ panel and hired some efficient lawyers in both higher and lower courts that cast a positive impact on disposing of cases in courts, said ACC spokesman Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya.
Besides, the ACC has taken a move to form an armed unit to conduct drives to arrest graft suspects and ensure security of its officials.
“We’ve already sent a proposal to the home ministry through the cabinet division in this regard. Now, it is under the scrutiny of the government,” ACC secretary Abu M Mustafa Kamal earlier told UNB.
Gearing up prevention works
The national anti-graft agency strengthened its prevention activities in the outgoing year and took various moves to make people aware of the adverse impacts of corruption.
In the year, the Commission held 25 public hearings on the services provided by different government bodies as part of its graft prevention activities being carried out as per the Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004 and the National Integrity Strategy.
The public hearings were arranged on services provided by Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK), the Department of Immigration and Passports, land offices, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), hospitals, Power Development Board and other public agencies.
The people who have the bitter experiences while availing themselves of services from those offices took part in the public hearings to raise their allegations against the government officials responsible for that.
Besides, the ACC opened four ‘Satata Stores’ (Integrity Shops) at schools in different districts, including Narsingdi, to help school children practise honesty.
Satata Store, a unique move of the commission, keeps the goods that school kids usually buy in display. There is no seller at the stores as schoolchildren take items they want from the shops and put the prices of the items in the designated cash box on their own.
The ACC has a plan to set up Satata stores at two schools-one of boys and another of girls-in every district on pilot basis, said ACC commissioner Md Nasiruddin Ahmed.
About the prevention activities, Ghulam Rahman said the ACC is creating awareness among people about graft, which is a great task and it should intensify the activities.
Experts warn that although the commission has taken some positive steps to check graft in the country, it has to face various challenges in the days to come due to the emergence of new forms of corruption and lack of competent and skilled manpower.
Noting that corrupt people get involved in corruption more tactfully, they said so the ACC needs more competent and skilled officials to encounter them.
Mentioning that the ACC is yet to arrest big cats, the experts said arresting high-profile graft suspects will be a challenging task for the commission.
“If the graft suspects the ACC is arresting could not be brought to justice and if punishment could not be meted out to them, the Commission’s image will be tainted while objective will fail,” said Ghulam Rahman.
Ensuring integrity inside the commission will also be a challenging task in the coming year as there are allegations that many of the ACC officials themselves are involved in corruption.
To address this issue, Nasiruddin Ahmed at a discussion on 9 December last said all officials of the national anti-graft agency must submit their wealth reports to it from next year (2017) so that they could be brought under the scanner.