Several ACC officials with the rank of deputy director and assistant director on condition of anonymity told Prothom Alo, Section 54(2) is discriminatory and contradicts with the policy of fundamental rights in constitution.

They explained this certain provision is applicable to the ACC’s own staff but not to those who are on deputation, thus creating institutional discrimination within the independent ACC. A writ has already been filed challenging the section and that is pending disposal at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Iftekharuzzaman also observed this section is discriminatory and creates a division among officials and employees within the ACC.

According to sources, the ACC is a constitutional independent body. Currently, the agency has 978 officials and employees. Of them, 248 officials holding the rank of deputy director, assistant director, sub assistant director are involved in investigation and probe. And 230 out of 248 officials are ACC’s own staff. The remaining 18 officials are posted at the ACC on deputation from various government offices including the administration.

According to the sources concerned, Section 54(2) is applicable to these 230 persons for any mistake or offence in the service. The ACC could not take any action against the officials carrying out duty on deputation. The agency informs the respective department only about the officials.

Many times, high officials also allegedly use this clause and create unlawful pressure in order to protect certain persons during investigations and report submission. Such allegations came to the limelight after the dismissal of Sharif Uddin.

Sources said the ACC has fired three people including Sharif Uddin so far under Section 54(2) and 30 departmental cases are under investigation against various officials.

Less investigating, more monitoring

Currently the ACC has 974 officials and employees. Of them, 248 of them are deputy directors, assistant directors and sub assistant directors; 43 officials hold higher ranks including directors, directors general, secretaries, commissioners and chairman and the remaining 643 are employees at various level.

Of the officials, 248 officials holding the rank of deputy director, assistant director and sub assistant director carry out investigations and inquiries. Eighteen or 7.2 per cent of them are on deputation. On the other hand, majority of 43 high rank officials, including director, director general, secretary, commissioner and chairman who carry out various monitoring task, came from the administrative branch.

ACC officials and employees observed the officials on deputation are more comfortable in monitoring rather than doing difficult investigation and inquiry. If the ACC loses any case, investigating officials concerned bear all responsibility and face criticism. Monitoring officials are never blamed.

Former ACC director Nasim Anwar observed the skill of the officials on deputation is ‘not satisfactory’. He retired from the ACC in July 2020 after serving the agency for 35 years.

Nasim Anwar told Prothom Alo, “The job at the ACC is a little different and complex too. The main task is to bring the criminals to the court through investigation. For this, officials have to go to the court many times and give statement to it. So, officials on deputation avoid investigation and in case are given such duty, they intentionally delay.”

Dominance of admin

Twenty-three of 43 high officials carry out their duties at the ACC on deputation with admin officers dominating important positions like director general and director. Two of the three-member commission including its chairman are retired senior secretary. Seven director generals are from the administration and they carry out duty on deputation.

Likewise, admin officials also dominate all eight wings, except the legal wing, of the ACC. Officials with the rank of additional secretary and joint secretary head the ACC’s seven wings – administration, special investigation, investigation-1, investigation-2, money laundering, prevention, and training and ICT. Currently, there are 32 directors in the ACC and 12 of them are from various ministries including public administration ministry.

People concerned said administration has been dominating the appointment of chairman, commissioners and secretary gradually over the past decade.

Regarding this, ACC chairman Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah told Prothom Alo, “The commission was established in 2004 and it runs on government funds. It is normal that government officials on deputation will hold high positions of the ACC. Such practice exists at all offices. However, what is being said about the dominance of admin officials is not true.”

The ACC officials would get promotion to upper positions gradually and the officials on deputation would decrease, he added.

Section 8(1) of ACC Act states about the eligibility of a commissioner of the agency. It says a person with at least 20 years of experience in law, education, administration, judiciary or law enforcement agency will be eligible to become a commissioner.

All ACC chairmen who were appointed since 2009, were from administration. Admin officials dominate among commissioners too.

Six commissions have been formed since the establishment of ACC on 21 November 2004. Justice Sultan Hossain Khan was its first chairman. Former army chief Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury became its chairman during the 20007 caretaker government. Since 2009, chairmen of all four commissions were the senior secretary who retired from administration.

Similar practice is followed in appointing the agency’s secretary. The section 16 of the ACC Act states the commission shall have a secretary and the commission itself will appoint him/her. But all the secretaries who came to the ACC were appointed by the government. No secretary was appointed by the commission in accordance with the act.

ACC secretary Md Mahbub Hossain could not be reached for comment. He neither received phone calls nor replies to SMS and WhatsApp messages.

Deputation

The section of the ACC (Staff) Rules 2008 states four methods to fill a vacant post. These are (1) direct recruitment, (2) promotion, (3) deputation and (4) contractual appointment.

Review of the ACC existing organogram shows the agency practiced the third method, deputation, maximum time ignoring the first two ones.

People concerned said if the commission wants it can appoint director general and director trough promotion. There are experienced personnel for both positions at the ACC. Besides, there are clauses stating officials have to ‘pass exams’ to get promoted what people concerned said a ‘trick’ to prevent promotion. As a result, many officials have held similar position for over a decade.

The ACC chairman Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah admitted the matter. He told Prothom Alo, “Promotion system of the commission is a little complex. We are trying to make it easier.”

Most of the officials who are on deputation are allegedly appointed at the choice of the ACC’s higher level. Officials are appointed on deputation in both important and relatively less important positions.

Besides, officials who are on deputation also hold similar posts for long. Currently, Abdul Awal, director (finance), and Mazedul Islam, director (public relations) have been in the ACC for five years. But Section 22 of the ACC Rules states tenure of an official on deputation shall be no more than three years.

Admin dominates verification committee

The verification committee is one of most important matters at the ACC. Some 40-50 complaints are filed at the agency daily. All three members of the verification committee are officials who are posted at the agency on deputation. The convener of the committee is an additional secretary while one of its members is a deputy secretary and another is senior assistant secretary.

Previously, the agency had three committees to verify complaints. The last commission led by Iqbal Mahmood rejected this and made it to one committee.

The ‘\special investigation wing is a very important wing of the ACC. This wing investigates the allegation of big corruption. An official with the rank of additional secretary is in-charge of this wing

According to sources at the ACC, the agency received 14,789 complaints in 2021. Of which, 11,367 complaints were documented and 533 of the remaining allegations were investigated. Some 2,889 complaints were forwarded to various ministries. The agency received 14,789 complaints in 2021.

The agency received 18,489 complaints in 2020. Some 11,367 of them were documented, 2,469 complaints were sent to various ministries and the remaining 822 allegations were taken to consideration and investigated.

Sources said a big portion of the allegations on corruption, embezzlement and gaining wealth illegally that the ACC receive is against the officials of various government offices. Many allegations are left out during verification. Many allegations are not approved for investigation either.

TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman observed whatever professional capacity the admin officials possess their loyalty lies to the government. So, they are not eager to investigate the allegations against the government officials. Similar influence also works for political quarters related to the government.

Iftekharuzzaman told Prothom Alo the ACC itself was faulty from the outset. Everyone expected it would be a new, independent and neutral body but that did not happen. With officers being brought in from the administration, these shortcomings have intensified further, he added.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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