Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has called for strict and unbiased enforcement of Prime Minister’s pledge that no irregularity shall be tolerated in government response to the crisis related to Covid 19. A statement issued to the media on 01 April, 2020 says that the Prime Minister’s statement confirms TIB’s demand that there is no alternative to highest level transparency and effective corruption control as prerequisite for successful response to this type of major crisis. TIB says that it now remains in the hands of her party leaders, activists and beneficiaries at all levels, administration, law-enforcement agencies including the Police to enforce the Prime Minister’s pledge. On the other hand, in this extraordinary situation although public procurement may genuinely need to be fast-tracked, all measures must be taken to ensure accountability. TIB also calls upon the government to guarantee that the supply chain of food and other essential daily consumables remains intact.
Referring to the statement of TIB on Corona virus related crisis issued on 28 March 2020, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB says that the Prime Minister’s strong statement was well-expected. He says, “as much as the Prime Minsister’s pledge is encouraging, it is now incumbent upon her party leaders, activists, supporters and beneficiaries to effectively enforce it. People would expect them not only to be respectful to her pledge, but also refrain from taking advantage of this extraordinary national crisis for involving in illicit practices for political mileage, corruption, abuse, misappropriation and extortion”.
Referring to the good examples in Shibchar of Madaripur and Bahubol of Hobiganj set by the prompt action taken against perpetrators of misappropriation of government supplied low-price rice and edible oil, Dr Zaman said, “although those involved were locally influential for links with ruling party or otherwise, the rigour with which the relevant administration officials and police acted has encouraged us. But on the other hand, credible complaint has been reported that some members of the police misappropriated money from cash boxes of some shops in Shitakundu in the pretext that the shops were kept open. We want to consider this Sitakundu incident as an isolated one and hope that the Shibchar and Bahubaol examples will be the model to follow by everyone in administration and law enforcement across the country. In case of any deviation exemplary disciplinary actions must be ensured”.
The executive director says, “the fact that governance deficit and corruption, particularly in a section of personnel in administration and law enforcement in Bangladesh is widespread, is a common knowledge. On the other hand, in the current extraordinary crisis situation it is only natural that in addition to the added responsibility and power, they are being entrusted with additional resources. Those who are prone to corruption in normal conditions, will be even more tempted to further corrupt practices. The Government must therefore attach top priority to mainstreaming anti-corruption, transparency and accountability in all stages and aspects of management of Corona crisis”.
The statement further said, it is also natural that in order to meet the crisis and manage its evolving socio-economic impact government activities like public procurement and distribution need to be fast-tracked. Inspite of such obligation of speedy handling of procurement and distribution, all measures must be taken to ensure accountability and transparency. Under no circumstances can anyone be allowed to indulge in undue profiteering and take advantage of this crisis for immoral and illegal enrichment”.
“The supply chain of essential food and daily necessities including perishable products must be maintained steadily ensuring transportation of such products with the assistance of police and if necessary calling upon limited and specifically assigned tasks to army personnel under the supervision of the civil administration. Failure to maintain the supply chain of essential consumables and perishable goods will deepen the crisis and push the farming population of rural areas in particular into extreme disadvantage and poverty”, the statement said.