Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) calls for effective implementation of the political pledge of 'Zero Tolerance' policy against irregularities and corruption in all sectors, including the health sector during the Corona Virus-led pandemic. To offset the socio-economic damage caused by the crisis, the anti-graft watchdog has urged all the relevant organizations including the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to come out of the culture of chasing for `small fishes’ while the big fishes remain scot-free and take effective institutional and administrative initiatives.
Marking the International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) 2020 on 9 December, TIB has made the calls in a media statement issued on the eve of IACD, reminding that the establishment of rule of law and accountability are critical to building a democratic country. “Therefore, all democratic institutions, especially law enforcement agencies, the administration, the judiciary, the Election Commission and the Human Rights Commission must ensure the impartiality, objectivity, efficiency, and professionalism,” TIB observed in the statement, with a strong demand that the constitutional right of freedom of speech must be ensured for the media and the people of the country.
In the statement that focused on widespread corruption exposed in the times of Corona crisis, overwhelming scale of irregularities and corruption, trending culture of impunity, failure of policy implementation, and arbitrary abuse of laws restricting access to information, freedom of expression and media freedom thus hindering anti-corruption mitigation measures, TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, “the unexpected events that have unfolded in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, portray that Corruption has become a ubiquitous form in the country which is an unpleasant fact.”
“In this trying situation, the question now arises what to do other than expressing frustration. Despite the declaration of 'zero tolerance' against corruption from the highest level of the government, we can see its implementation stuck only in chasing for small fishes. The activities of corrupt leaders at the top are beyond our imagination. We do not see robust investigation or effective legal action against any of those big players” Dr. Zaman insisted.
Complaining that political elites, businesspeople, and other influential quarters are enjoying impunity, Dr. Zaman said, “The ACC seems to be playing the role of a de facto B-team in this regard. In order to curb corruption and putting effective prevention measures, the ACC has to come out of the identity of the tiger on paper.”
TIB has also said it seeks transparency in the appointment of new ACC leadership and envisions the commission playing a more effective role. “The ACC Chief is about to complete his stint, and the commission must take this opportunity to take control and establish the ACC as an effective anti-corruption body. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the appointment of honest, competent, neutral, determined, and professional leaders with leadership qualities, free from party political influence by following the legal process and ensuring transparency,” said Dr. Zaman hoping that the government will not disappoint in this regard.
Citing the recent release of money laundering information by the Foreign Minister in Begumpara, Canada, Dr. Zaman said, “Apart from the ACC, Bangladesh Bank and the Financial Intelligence Unit, law enforcement agencies, the National Board of Revenue and especially the Attorney General's Office also need to set a visible example of their impartiality, efficiency, and effectiveness. Otherwise, it is impossible to control the rampant corruption, including money laundering.” Observing that “despite the promotion of independent journalism, freedom of expression and free media in the country, in reality, every effort is being made to control the media in both institutional and informal ways,” Dr. Zaman emphasized on ensuring independent journalism, freedom of expression.
TIB also hoped, on this auspicious occasion of the centenary of the birth of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that the government would strive to establish a well-governed democratic system and led in building the `Shonar Bangla’ of Bangabandhu's dream involving every person in the country.
Due to restrictions on public events in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, TIB has outlined a series of engaging virtual events stretching from the last week of November up to the second week of December to mark IACD 2020 with the theme “Zero Corruption in COVID Response: Stop Corruption, Save Lives”, both at the national and the local level. A high-level Panel Discussion on `Youth in Anti-Corruption Social Movement: Cartoon and Painting’ was held on 9 December, followed by the announcement of the results of the Anti-corruption Cartoon Competition 2020 with the theme `Corruption in Tackling Corona Virus’ and the inauguration of the Anti-corruption Cartoon Exhibition 2020. Earlier, TIB's IACD 2020 observance officially started with JUDO-TIB International Inter-University 3-day Debate Competition 2020 at the national level on 26 November 2020. On 2 December, the results of the competition were announced after a virtual high-level Panel discussion on Governance Challenges in Tackling Corona Virus.
TIB events marking IACD 2020 placed 10 points demands for relevant stakeholders. The notable recommendations, included among others, adoption of an immediate government initiative in collaboration with relevant stakeholders that is effective, coordinated, inclusive, time-bound, and implementable to tackle the 2nd wave of the Corona Virus; extend the advantage of free tests to all districts with an increased number of tests, and follow the government procurement rules and guidelines in all types of procurements in the health sector including introducing E-GP in all emergency procurements. TIB also recommended ensuring effective and exemplary punishment for irregularities and corruption in the health sector during the pandemic; ensuring inclusion of Youth in tackling this global setback and the decision-making process to achieve SDGs and creating a conducive environment for implementation of inclusive sustainable development goal by prioritizing Goal 16 overall goals as a precondition.
At the local level, TIB in association with CCCs organized Investigative Journalism Training from 02-03 December 2020 to enhance the skill and capacity of 27 journalists of Coastal Journalists Network (CJNET) on governance in disaster management, national and international climate finance mechanisms and steps, processes, and areas of investigative journalism. At the training, a total of 27 journalists from 14 coastal areas and Dhaka participated. TIB-inspired YES and Yes friends under 45 Committees of Concerned Citizens (CCCs) across the country organized an `Anti-Corruption Quiz Competition’ on 7 December 2020 to raise awareness among the young people about anti-corruption social movement and IACD. To share the importance and significance of IACD among the youth, TIB also organized a cluster-wise virtual `Anti-Corruption Story-telling Competition’ in the participation of TIB-inspired YES and Yes friends from all CCCs across the country from 5-8 December 2020 where the anti-corruption agents shared their strategies, experiences, and accomplishments achieved through anti-corruption activities under anti-corruption social movement.