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EC won't take action against tax-dodging MPs, says CEC

EC won't take action against tax-dodging MPs, says CEC. Financial Express      

FE Report

The Election Commission (EC) will not take any action against the parliament members who did not pay any tax before the election, said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda Sunday.

"We are least bothered if anybody did not pay any tax and we are not trying to scrap membership of any MP," he said at a round table on 'Financial transparency in politics: Challenge and how to overcome' in the city.

The EC asked them where they got the money for contesting in the election but it was not possible for the Commission to scrap their membership as they did not pay any tax, he said at the roundtable organised by Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB).

"We will hold talks with them and ask them to pay tax now as they have become MPs now," he said.

He was talking about media report that 42 MPs never paid any income tax, claiming they did not have taxable income.

The CEC said the Commission wants to bear some of the election expenses including the cost of printing posters and leaflets, buy airtime for debate in television and organise projection meetings.

He, however, said the political parties do not want to be controlled but if there is any state funding, the full control will lie with the Commission.

About scrutiny of eight prices of information provided by candidates in nomination papers, he said it is not possible to verify all information in such a short period.

"In 300 constituencies, about 4,500 to 5,000 candidates submit papers and even a super human being cannot verify all the data provided by them in 15 to 17 days," he added.

M Hafizuddin Khan, chairman of TIB trustee board, said submission of income tax return is very important.

"If an MP said he or she does not earn taxable income and spend millions of taka then there is a possibility that he or she is hiding information, which is an offence," he said.

The parliament members may lose their seats if it is proven that they hide information or give wrong information, he added.

Mr Hafiz said state funding in election is one option to bring transparency in finance in politics but the main problem is implementation.

Professor Dilara Chowdhury said political criminalisation had started when the black money holders began to take part in election.

"Earlier, they only funded the political parties but now they dominate the politics by taking part in election and become MPs," she said.

Transparency in funding for political parties is needed to establish democracy in the country, she added.

Former secretary Abdul Latif Mondol said money and muscle are the two important factors in Bangladesh election.

"We need to bring financial transparency in the political parties and state funding can be a good solution," he said.

If the state bears the partial costs of election, then the parties will not seek donation from the businessmen who give money in return of benefits, he added.

Parliament member Rashida Begum Hira said the sooner the country gets financial transparency in the parties the better it is for the public representatives.

She urged the Commission to make the people aware of election code of conduct so that they knew how much a candidate could spend.

"In many cases, supporters seek money from us without knowing the allowable limit of spending and we cannot refuse as it will hamper our election," she added.

Media personality Mohammad Jahangir said unless the political forces practise democracy inside their parties, it is not possible to bring financial transparency.

Former vice chancellor of Dhaka University Moniruzzaman Miah said powerful people are responsible for corruption.

For financing political parties, a small group of big business houses donate money to the parties but they do not want to disclose their names, he said.

Politician ASM Abdur Rab said robbers, thieves and corrupt people will be elected unless the government bears election expenses.

Social activist Khushi Kabir said actions should be taken if any political financial scandals are revealed.

Citing example, she said German chancellor Helmut Khol had to resign, British parliament Speaker resigned over financial irregularities in recent times and In India, the whole country was shaken when Tehelka television videoed how politicians took bribe.

Iftekhar Zaman, executive director of TIB, conducted the roundtable.

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