Govt officials must have accountability, not impunity

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The responsibility and accountability of government officials and employees in Bangladesh is only on paper. In reality, given the scale of the allegations against them, there appears to be lack of accountability. A large section of the public administration officials and employees face various allegations of irregularities, corruption and abuse of power. There have been no remedies for these offences.

The cabinet division has recently sent a letter to the secretary of law and justice on Tuesday asking him to take necessary steps to ensure compliance with an old provision where no case can be filed against a government official without permission.

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What is the significance of this letter when unethical practices by a vested quarter of public servants has diminished people’s trust in the administration and the people-oriented character of the government? The context was was clarified by the media.

Extrajudicial killings in the name of 'duty' by law enforcement agencies, torture in custody and the practice of extorting money from innocent people by threatening with crossfire has been going on for years due to lack of accountability.

According to the letter from the law and justice secretary, it has been seen recently that cases are being filed against the deputy commissioners, upazila nirbahi officers (UNO), executive magistrates and other public servants in different districts. Apart from violating the law, effective measures to maintain law and order in the field and prevent crime are often hampered by such actions.

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But has the cabinet division looked at the other side? Is there any office of public administration, including the offices of deputy commissioners and UNOs, where bribery and corruption has not become an 'open secret'? People now believe that no service is available without bribes. Citizens are even deprived of many rights if government officials are not paid extra. For example, the government will pay the citizens in exchange for land acquisition, but the owner of the land will not get the money without paying a large bribe — a fact that has become widely known. Bribery and corruption in upazila land offices has become a common picture. The government officials and employees involved in all this do not even feel that they are doing anything wrong.

We do not know what our cabinet division might say about the massive irregularities and corruption of government officials in the name of 'duties and responsibilities' in the government's health department during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are sure that these incidents would not have happened if there had been effective measures to ensure accountability and responsibility of the government officials and employees. For example, Titas Gas Corporation officials and employees have been involved in rampant corruption for years. A detailed report on the irregularities and corruption of Titas was published on the first page of Prothom Alo, on Thursday, the same day that the news of the cabinet division directive was published.

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Extrajudicial killings in the name of 'duty' by law enforcement agencies, torture in custody and the practice of extorting money from innocent people by threatening with crossfire has been going on for years due to lack of accountability. The murder of retired army major Sinha Md Rashed Khan at Marine Drive in Cox's Bazar is also a result of the lack of accountability of members of the law enforcement agencies.

Therefore, if the letter of the cabinet division is taken into cognisance by the law and justice department, it will not benefit the country and the people, rather the part of the government officials and employees who are enjoying the the irregularities, corruption and abuse of power, will be acquitted. This is not acceptable in any way.

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