Culture of rampant bribery must stop

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

A survey report of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) ‘Corruption in Service Sector: National Household Survey 2021’ has revealed an extremely worrying picture of corruption in the country. Actually any survey is not so necessary to understand the magnitude of corruption in the emergency service sectors in the country. The service seekers’ experience is self-explanatory.

Around 71 per cent of households have been facing corruption in availing government services, reveals the TIB report. On average they pay Tk 6,636 as bribes to avail the services. The amount of money paid as bribe between December 2020 and November 2021 was Tk 108.3 billion (10,830 crore).

People paid the bribe to get services of 17 sectors. Among the sectors, law enforcement agencies were found to be most corrupt (74.4 per cent). This was followed by passport sector (70 per cent). Besides, the amount of corruption is huge in availing services of BRTA (Bangladesh Road Transport Authority), judiciary, healthcare, local government organisations and land offices.

As many as 72.1 per cent of the people took part in the survey think no service could be availed without paying bribe. They said they pay bribes to get rid of any untoward situation or hassle. Again, despite paying bribes a large section of them do not file any complaint fearing harassment. Where the elder people are supposed to get the services easily, they face the harassment more.

Earlier, the TIB conducted another household survey about corruption in the service sectors in 2017. At that time, 66 per cent faced corruption which has increased to 70.8 per cent in 2021. In 2017, each family had to pay Tk 5,930 as bribe which has increased to Tk 6,636.

TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman aptly said the information that people are compelled to pay bribe or not getting any services without paying bribe proves that realising bribery has taken an institutional form here.

But how to rein in this culture of rampant bribery and corruption? Before coming to power, Awami League in its election manifesto talked about showing zero tolerance to corruption. But its reflection was seen in a very few sectors in the last 13 years of its tenure. Instead, the magnitude of corruption has increased by manifold in many sectors. Only words will not stop corruption. Institutional initiatives are necessary for this.

Though the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has been showing its initiatives recently, people have a perception that the anti-graft body conducts operations selectively and does not try to detain all the corrupt people.

Recently, the High Court has cancelled the provision that said about taking permission from the government before arresting any government employee. The Appellate Division has stayed the order until 23 September as the government pleads against the HC verdict. This also clarifies the government’s views regarding corruption.

The corruption could have been reined in to some extent through digitalising the service sector. Though the government has been talking about establishing a digital Bangladesh, the actual development is very little. We must not forget that billions of taka, acquired through corruption, is being siphoned off the country every year. The sufferings of the service seekers and money laundering will not decrease if the corruption is not curbed. Sustainable and coordinated steps are required to stop this culture of rampant bribery.