Corruption and anti Corruption in Bangladesh


Bangladesh places at the bottom of many corruption and governance indexes.
Transparency International (TI) ranked Bangladesh as the most corrupt country in the world for five consecutive years (2001-2005). TI considers both political and administrative corruption in its’ index. The World Bank identified Bangladesh as the 12th and 17th among the most corrupt countries in 2004 and 2005 in the corruption index of the governance indicators (Kaufmann, Kraay and Mastruzzi 2006). Furthermore, the World Economic Forum identified Bangladesh as the most corrupt country among 125 in the corruption sub-index of the Global Competitiveness Report for 2006-07.

Corruption directly affects the cultural, political, and economic fabric of society; it damages vital organs of the state and poses a threat to national security

Public corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, especially in developing countries those have been making transitions from years of foreign occupations. Corruption is defined by the World Bank and Transparency International as "the misuse of public office for private gain". It is also considered as a moral and legal problem since it involves undocumented and illegitimate appropriation of public wealth, improper and unlawful behaviors of public service officials; both politicians and civil servants whose positions create opportunities for the diversion of state funds and assets from Government to themselves and their accomplices. Pervasive corruptions reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of the government, private investments and finally alienate the citizens from their Government. The contributing variables to these corruptions are lack of "Commitments and the Will" of the governments, greed, policies, failing institutions, income disparities and lack of accountability and transparency etc.
In Bangladesh, corruption has become an accepted behavior as if the government has legalized the payments of bribes! These practices have created national, moral and economic catastrophes to this poor nation. Unfortunately, for many of us the idea is that "it's solely the Government's responsibility to fight and prevent corruptions" but I strongly believe that this conclusion is not absolute. Governments can't draw a line between public conducts/behaviors those are required in public life and conducts those are good although not required. Ultimately all parts of our society must share responsibility for containing corruption, because all of us are willing or unwilling participants in it, one way or other. Each corrupt transaction requires a buyer and a seller. However, the Government is ultimately responsible for dealing with civil servants those engage in extortion and bribery but it is the business and individuals those offer bribes to civil servants to secure certain advantages.
It is axiomatic that Bangladesh has become a fertile ground of "corruptions" since its independence. All public institutions starting from Minister's Secretariats to their Divisions and branches nation wide, Law enforcement agencies, tax and customs administration, banking systems, public corporations, utility services like Gas, electricity, telephone and water supply are plagued by default and bribery. In a colloquial sense, all these corruptions are the products of poor governance those infuse the public funds and other resources to the corrupted public officials, to the greedy politicians and the businessmen. Majority of nation's population become victims of corruptions and the poor suffers its astringent burdens at the worst.
Combating corruptions through enforcement law is indeed complicated. "Points of corruptions" are those where public official's discretion interacts with the private sectors and those there are the opportunities for exercising their authority and judgments in the appropriation, approval and use of public funds. Its complicities are secretive conducts and unlike violent crimes (e.g. robbery, murders or rape) the crime of corruptions has visibly no direct victim in general who could complain to the law enforcing authority with evidences. Thus, investigative efforts in corruption complains become difficult and more often these efforts end up with flawed outcomes. Evidences of bribery, extortion, grafts etc., against elected officials, politicians and senior leaders in Bangladesh have become almost impossible in coming up with any successful prosecutions.
Having said all these, corruptions still could be arrested and reduced significantly with our government and political leaders "Strong Will", strategic initiatives and plans of actions. Combating, controlling and prevention of corruptions could need both reactive and preventive initiatives. These may include (1) Moves to strengthen coordinated enforcement of law, investigative powers and imposing severe penalties (2) Mandating higher level responsibility, accountability and transparency of Government activities (3) Aggressive public campaign against corruptions (4) Securing effective and appropriate legislative actions, (5) Eliminating the opportunity of committing corruptions in our systems, tougher election regulations (e.g. Asset declaration) and (6) educating and fostering the citizens (campaigning) against corruptions etc. would help ameliorating endemic corruption practices in Bangladesh.
Preventing corruption before being committed could be another effective strategy of a well developed systems by assessing potential or actual conflicts of interests of the public officials, bureaucratic, elected officials and others involved in the "Points of interest". Laws delegating the sensitivity on conflicts of interest, declaration of assets, sources of income of the elected officials, their immediate family members (spouse, children, brother, sisters, in-laws etc.) could be introduced before taking office or accepting any public service position. Government must draft effective law preventing and fighting money laundering schemes too. A monitoring cell may be established to look through overall performance of Government's anticorruption measures and action plans.
The public officials must accept the importance of legal and moral obligations during their services and perform those in non-partition and without regard for personal interest, and shall act without "fear and favor", malice or ill will. The elected officials also have Constitutional duties, obligations and responsibilities to its citizens and must work in accordance the Parliamentary "Code of Conduct" and public trust. Government could also curb the opportunities of corruption by reducing bureaucratic red tapes and authority, introducing information technology traps to locate and apprehend violators as well as giving out options those could provide multiple alternatives to citizens during their interactions with public officials. It is also essential that citizens have reasonable access to the "points of contact" for reporting corruption.
And finally, anti-corruption laws and Anti-Corruption Commission need more authority like power to search, seizures, arrest, detentions, instant check of bank accounts & assets, more freedom in investigating corruptions and then prosecuting the corrupted individuals. This Commission should be made to work with credibility and success in fighting corruptions. It also needs clearly defined and unambiguous tools in hand to succeed instead of being a "failed agency". Commission must investigate all complains with equal and unbiased importance too. Educating public with anti-corruption messages in the news media and displaying bill boards etc., nationwide could yet be another important tool during this process. We need to recognize that once public sectors are not engaged in corruptions, there can not be any alarming corruption. This is another strong argument for privatization of public enterprises!


Corruption poses a threat to human security as this tends to hinder access of the poor to resources and, at the same time denies them to access to justice. Studies conducted by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) provide examples of impact of administrative corruption on incomes of poor households. These studies reflect on people’s suffering, deprivation of basic necessities (health and education) and access to justice. As part of poverty eradication strategy, the Bangladesh government has started compulsory free primary education. It also started providing stipends to poor primary school students to reduce their dropout rates. TIB (2002) found that poor people are the direct beneficiary of these programmes. But TIB (2005) revealed that 40% students paid for the admission, and 32% for enrolling in the stipend list. Five percent of those enrolled for the stipends reported that they were not receiving full amount of the stipend. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the government also initiated stipend programme for the secondary school female students. But TIB uncovered that this initiative was infected with corruption as well. Twenty two percent had to pay illegal tax for enrolling in the stipend programme and 38% of them reported to receive less money than the amount of stipend stated. TIB (2002) also disclosed that the average monthly income of victims of corruption was less than the income of household not victimized by corruption.

The health sector is widely affected by corruption in Bangladesh. The poorest segments of the society use public hospital services as they do not have incomes to seek services of private doctors and hospitals (TIB 2002). TIB study (2002) found that the average monthly income of the corruption victims in public hospital was less than those who were not the victims of corruption. TIB (2005) uncovered that 26% patients paid illegal tax for treatment in the outdoor and 20% in indoor, 37% for surgery, 57% for X-ray and 60% for pathology test in public hospital. Therefore, the poor were paying illegal tax to get essential health services which are supposed to be delivered free of cost.

Economic condition of service recipient from public hospital (Monthly income in US$) 72 70 74 Household who received services from public hospital Household the victims of corruption in public hospital Household not the victims of corruption in public hospital (TIB 2002) 9 Finally, TIB (2005) showed that 92% of the households had to pay bribes for recording First Information (FIR) and 91% for General Diary (GD) in the police stations. Sixty six percent of plaintiffs and 65% of the accused had to pay bribes in the lower courts. In both cases, people with lower incomes had to suffer due to corruption (Figure 1.3). Figure 1.3 Economic condition of service recipient from police and lower judiciary (Monthly income in US$) 84 86 73 82 80 91 Household who received services Household the victims of corruption Household not the victims of corruption Police Lower Judiciary The three studies lead to a number of findings. First, in most cases, people with lower income suffered most due to corruption. Second, the poor were forced to pay to get services which are to be delivered to them free of cost. Third, the additional spending to get services may hinder the Poor’s access to these services. Finally, corruption deprives the poor of their rights: the poor had to pay to gain access to public institutions of justice.


Political will and political capacity to govern are required to control administrative corruption. In many liberal democratic countries, administrative corruption has been curbed through legislation and institutional reforms. Political corruption may also be addressed by reforming, strengthening and vitalizing the existing political, judicial and administrative institutions of accountability. The experience of different countries informs us that broad social changes, supported by specific anti-corruption efforts, can make a difference to the fight against corruption. But the threat of exposure or exemplary punishment of corrupt officials is not enough to stop the abuse of power. All institutional incentives and disincentives for abuse of public office for private gain should be confronted. However, if the public officials do not have incentives to change, they would not stop abusing public power as they profit from the ‘status quo’ (Brinkerhoff 2000). Brinkerhoff (2000) suggested the following when designing an anti-corruption programme.

 • Corruption is a complex issue with intricate linkages to other political and economic factors, both within a country and internationally

• Tackling corruption is not a one-shot endeavor, but a challenging, long-term undertaking

• Successful anti-corruption efforts depend upon political will to initiate the fight against corruption in the first place, and subsequently, the will to sustain the battle over time until results are achieved.

There are different approaches to fighting corruption that focuses on the role of the economy, the state, and the society in anti-corruption programmes (Michael 2004). The universalistic approach emphasizes political will and an overhaul of state institutions: parliament, executive, judiciary, supreme audit institutions, ombudsman’s office, independent anti-corruption agencies, and local government. It requires engagement of media, civil society, private sector, and international actors.

Further, changes may be necessary in the election processes, administrative law, public service ethics, financial management systems, competition policies, and laws. In the state-centric approach, fighting corruption requires reform of economic policy, public expenditure/financial management, administrative/civil service reform, legal and judicial systems, and public oversight mechanisms. This approach emphasizes increasing accountability and transparency of the public sector processes and services. The Society centric approach stresses the role of ‘civil society’ and NGOs in the fight against corruption. Klitgaard (1997) argued that minimizing monopoly, clarifying discretion and ensuring accountability reduces corruption and that more democracy, limited state, and freer markets will help in curbing corruption. Privatization may also help, but it may re-install another monopoly.

If fighting corruption is to be successful, the probability of being caught for corruption must increase and punishment must rise because corruption is a crime of calculation, not of passion. Klitgaard identified three steps for designing anti-corruption programme: problem assessment, development of strategy and implementation. The nature and extent of corruption in different sectors should be assessed first. The actors and victims of corruption and the conditions that are contributing to corruption would also have to be identified. The second step is the development of a strategy against corruption with focus on corrupt systems, not just corrupt individuals. Finally, initiatives should be taken for implementing the strategy.

Hart (2001) divided anti-corruption strategies into three categories: (i) reducing the scope for corruption through policy change, (ii) increasing the costs of corruption through external monitoring and sanctioning; and (iii) devising systems to induce self-restraint within government organizations.

                                         RECOMMENDATION AND CONCLUSIONS

Addressing corruption in Bangladesh will require a comprehensive strategy because of the issues raised in this paper – the core reason being the collusive nature of political and administrative elites and their relationships, which in turn has maintained its debilitating hold on state institutions and process. Given the extent of the problem and its impact on economic and political life in Bangladesh, it is unrealistic to expect a reform agenda which will reduce the level of corruption in a few years. What the paper proposes is a two-step reform agenda: (i) reform of the state institutions with focus on the accountability of the executive (to prevent political corruption) and (ii) reform of the civil service recruitment process and a review of its norms and regulations to ensure greater accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness. Recommendations


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