Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Transparency International—Bangladesh


  Since its independence in 1971 Bangladesh has been heavily dependent on foreign assistance in order to reduce poverty and attain sustainable growth. But the track record so far has been rather modest and the long-standing problems are still to be tackled. The crisis of governance in Bangladesh is coming under greater scrutiny from both within the country and outside. Over the last few years the key stakeholders in Bangladesh who are involved with the process of development have belatedly realized that the issue of governance could be more important than getting the right policies in place. The focus is on issues such as corruption, transparency and the confrontational politics (appendix 1 —Rethinking Confrontational Politics: A Reform Agenda by the Civil Society by Feroz M Hassan, President, MSS/SRG and Secretary General, Free Election Monitoring Alliance (FEMA) and Manzoor Hasan, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh, August 2000[1]).

  According to Crisis in Governance: A Review of Bangladesh's Development 1997 (The Centre for Policy Dialogue, June 1998) "This failure of the Bangladesh economy to move on to a sustainable growth path . . . points to a crisis of governance rather than a failure of macro-economic policy." Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has looked into some of the major sectors and extracts from those reports should suffice to reinforce the aforementioned judgment of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

Bangladesh Power Development Board

  The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) can substantially increase its power generation capacity by plugging some of its revenue and expenditure leakage. At a rough estimate, a 10 per cent reduction in system loss would yield Tk 3 billion (USD 0.06 billion) in savings, sufficient to add to the system 200 MW of simple cycle gas turbine generation every year. Alternatively or additionally, a mere 5 per cent reduction in the inefficiency of spending the Tk 15 billion (USD 0.28 billion) annual development budget of the government's power sector could yield Tk 750 million (USD 13.88 million), sufficient to add another 50 MW to the system, raising the total additional generation capacity by 250 MW. In one year, the current power crisis of greater Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh) could be tackled and in two years, the shortage of generation capacity in the entire country could be put right.

Genesis of Corruption

  Corruption in the power sector had not assumed serious proportion until after the independence of Bangladesh. In the 1960s, stealing of electricity was significantly more widespread in West Pakistan than in East Pakistan. Suspicions about corruption were mainly focused on the purchase and construction contracts relating to the power department headquarter, and not so much on execution of large projects or appointments of consultants of which there were many.

  As shame and remorse once attached to corruption gradually vanished and certain sections of employees became gradually emboldened under protection of their Collective Bargaining Agents (Trade Union), corruption spread to a wider sphere of BPDB's activities and cases once confined to only subordinate staff extended to certain sections of officers.

  Payment of a small percentage of a bill to the accounts section by contractors has become standard practice and is now taken for granted. The same is the case of gratification required by junior officers for certifying measurements, recommending quoted rates for unscheduled works, and for higher level officers approving bills. Engagement of ghost labour in the master roll, particularly during an emergency, is fairly common. These types of corrupt transactions would be fairly common in most government agencies and departments. But however prevalent such petty corruption may be, it is the large-scale corruption associated with BPDB's technical and commercial functions that has been eating away at the vitals of the organisation and hurting the economy and the society.

  Apart from suspicions about high-level, large-magnitude corruption in the procurement processes resulting from the government's crisis avoidance actions, the shortage of generation, transformer, and distribution line capacity provides incentives to fairly widespread corruption in giving new electric connections and increasing the authorised load.

  The most pernicious phenomenon nurturing corruption is the so-called system loss, which involves the theft of a substantial volume of electrical energy. What was initially a minor issue became gradually more serious due to the neglect in enforcing discipline at a time when things were still under control. With no disciplinary actions forthcoming, delinquent BPDB employees developed an attitude of having the "right to steal". Protected by strong trade unions that claimed political support and patronage, and with the connivance of certain sections of officers, the employees have been an active party to the system loss, causing huge revenue losses to BPDB and undermining its financial viability. This has led to the loss of donor trust and aid worthiness.

  At the same time, demand management has been handled most casually. Some classes of electricity tariff (residential and commercial) continue to be higher than rates prevailing in regional countries. Consumers, faced with high electricity bills relative to their income, are tempted to get their bill totals reduced by bribing meter readers, billing clerks, and customer account keepers.

Corruption in Procurement

  Top officials in the BPDB have hinted that major corrupt practices in large contracts take place "outside the organisation", which would seem to indicate the ministry level. None, however, denied the existence of minor vices at different levels of BPDB, a phenomenon, which they felt, was common to most development-oriented government departments that handled large construction and supply works. In contrast, Dhaka Electric Supply Authority (DESA) officials suggested that corruption in procurement was not significant, while Rural Electrification Board (REB) officials claimed that well-developed procurement procedures and effective supervision of their procurement system offered little scope for corruption.

System Loss

  In fiscal 1998-99, BPDB generated 14,150 MkWh of electricity, purchased another 450 MkWh from private sources, but billed for only 11,462 MkWh, giving a system loss of 22 per cent. This was better than DESA's 40 per cent but poorer than REB's 17 per cent. The weighted average system loss in the power sector as a whole is estimated at 35 per cent, which includes 21 per cent technical loss. The balance 14 per cent (non-technical loss) was due to pilferage, theft and unauthorised use. In 1999-2000, total generation by BPDB and independent power producers is projected at 17,535 MkWh. Theft of electricity at the rate of 14 per cent is therefore estimated to be 2,434 MkWh. At an average tariff of Tk 2.10 per kWh, the value of the theft would be Tk 5 billion (USD 0.09 billion).

  The corruption related to the theft of electricity has become very pervasive. Apart from meter readers, supervisors, ledger keepers and other positions connected with billing and consumer accounting, many Assistant Engineers and some high level officers are involved in this vice. With the involvement of officers, supervision becomes impossible. On the consumer side, people across the economic spectrum are involved in dishonest practices.

  The number of illegal connections is enormous. Although no one knows the actual figure, it could be as high as 300,000. Theft also takes place by way of tapping distribution lines, bypassing meters, `fixing' the meters, and misusing free electricity supply for BPDB employees. High-tension consumers, particularly some textile mills, jute mills and chemical plants, often remove the fuses from instrument transformers in order to disable the energy meters.


Genesis of Corruption

  The legacy of corruption and malpractice in the banking sector can be traced back to the pre-liberation (pre 1971) days. The Pakistan government, bent on rapid industrialisation and modernisation of agriculture, provided liberal refinance facilities to specialised development finance institutions, who were encouraged to dole out large amounts of money to budding industrialists and large agriculturists. There were reports of borrowers bribing bank officials in cash or kind for getting loans. Large industrial loans required political patronage, some of which was thought to have had a price tag attached to it. Insider lending was common in private banks, as was the use of bribes to mobilise scarce deposit funds from owners or controllers of government and military funds. The incidence of fraud and forgery was however very limited and/or not made public.

Growth and Spread of Corruption

  After independence, all private banks, excepting foreign banks, were nationalised and brought under the direct control of the bureaucrats. The government allowed the remission of interest and, in some cases, even the principal for borrowers who could claim that they had been adversely affected by the war of liberation.

  The acute shortage of manpower in the banking sector forced the government to go for hasty, quota-based recruitment drives. The prolonged government ban on new recruitment of officers (forced upon by trade union pressure) even when the branch network was expanding rapidly created pressure for promotion from the clerical ranks. This resulted in a decline in the average quality of the work force.

  The government's policy of mandated credit for agriculture, to be disbursed through local level government officials and rural power brokers, practically institutionalised corruption in agricultural lending. Dishonest bank officials took a 10 to 20 percent cut of the loan amount, as a matter of routine.

  The new government inherited from its predecessor an enthusiasm for rapid industrialisation. Government-owned development finance institutions (DFIs), using soft donor loans, financed numerous projects. However, a large proportion of such loans represented political patronage to party supporters, former and serving civil /military bureaucrats, and their relatives. In such cases, the lending decisionswere obviously not based on sound banking principles. At the same time, commercial banks offered lines of credit indiscriminately without reference to the customers' creditability, safe in the knowledge that the bank's lending risk would be covered by Bangladesh Bank's credit guarantee. The freewheeling banking operations came to a shuddering halt in the early eighties, following the hardly unexpected revelation that the DFIs were burdened with large non-performing loan portfolios. The flow of donor credit dried up soon afterwards.

  Large borrowers wilfully defaulted on the loan repayments to the DFIs and nationalised commercial banks (NCBs), emboldened by their close links with the corrupt civil-military bureaucracy. Subsequently, the defaulters extracted concessions in the form of interest waivers, segregation of loans into "blocked accounts", and repeated rescheduling. Some defaulters are alleged to have used the defaulted funds to start private banks and insurance companies. This gave them a further opportunity for insider lending and for diverting yet more funds to various pet ventures. Herein lies the origin of the "default culture".

The Situation Today

  A recent study on the bank loan default problem found that in the sample group of 125 defaulters, 78 per cent utilised political connections, including ministers' influence, to get loans sanctioned. Of the 37 per cent directly involved with the ruling party, a large proportion had changed their political affiliation at least once.

  Successive governments have made half-hearted attempts to tackle corruption in the banking sector. Recommendations made by various committees set up to investigate corruption never received the priority that they deserved. In some cases, the final report was not even published. The attitude of major donors was ambivalent. The Financial Sector Adjustment Credit programme (World Bank) and the Financial Sector Reform Program (USAID), two major aid projects focussing on the financial sector, neglected the issue of combating corruption in banks.

  The political patronage enjoyed by the defaulters and dishonest senior bankers was sufficiently strong to prevent the Bureau of Anti-corruption (BAC) from investigating suspected bank officials without the clearance of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Defaulters were allowed to contest the 1991 general election. In the 1996 elections, the caretaker government initially took a strong stance against the participation of defaulters. The government later reversed its position and allowed defaulters to contest, provided they got their default loans rescheduled on payment of only a single instalment of 10 per cent of the defaulted amount. After getting elected the default status of members of Parliament no longer mattered.

  Recently, the government, with some sustained prodding from the donors, has brought in new laws to fight defaulters in spite of the powerful defaulter's lobby in the parliament. But these reform measures have not reversed the poor trend; the banking sector remains fragile and capital deficient. The proportion of total bad loans has increased (67 per cent for DFIs, 40 per cent overall) despite the fall in the proportion of classified loans disbursed during 1996-98. Today, the NCBs and many private banks of Bangladesh would be considered insolvent by international standards.

  As for the default loan scenario, the entire focus has been on the borrowers. Bank officials have been very fortunate to escape blame for their role in many corrupt, or at best ill judged, lending decisions. There appears to be a lack of awareness in the government and the banking community that bank officials can be penalised by the law for wilful or negligent conduct in disbursing loans.

Magnitude of Corruption

  Reliable estimates of the monetary involvement in cases of bribery, fraud and forgery in the banking are hard to come by because of the high degree of secrecy maintained by the concerned parties. Good borrowers prefer to conceal their involvement whereas defaulters are prone to exaggerate their costs of doing business with banks.

  The cumulative losses through frauds and forgeries are estimated to be Tk 1 billion (USD 0.2 billion) at the end of November 1998, at 0.2 per cent of total bank deposits. Bribes related to agricultural loans are said to range between 10 to 20 per cent of the loan amount; but a lower rate (2-10 per cent) applies in the case of larger loans, which are usually taken out by relatively influential borrowers. In the case of project loans for agriculture, fisheries, and dairy, bribes collected by the bank officials are sometimes shared with the local government project development officers. In the case of commercial loans, the banker not only collects outright bribes (1-5 per cent of the loan limit), but also often receives occasional gifts and regular hospitality or entertainment from the client. For term loans, the bribes range from 1 to 5 per cent, depending on the (a) type and size of the projects, (b) special services, if any, to be rendered by the bank staff in preparation of the project feasibility report and processing the loan proposal as a "package deal", and (c) the status of the person influencing the loan sanctioning decision. The successful borrower has to pay a further sum at the time of disbursement. Working capital loans involve a separate payment of 1 to 5 per cent to the bank's managers, employees and trade union leaders.



  The Roads and Highways Department (RHD), under the Ministry of Communication, is responsible for building and maintaining (a) national highways, (b) regional highways, (c) feeder roads which connect thana headquarters to the arterial road network, and (d) bridges and culverts. Additionally, RHD operates ferries of various types and sizes to link the rest of the system.

  RHD receives a healthy allocation from the government's development budget, In FY 1999-2000, RHD's allocation was Tk 14 billion (USD 270 million), of which the foreign aid component was 55 percent. The bulk of aid funds (83 per cent) came from IDA, ADB and OECF Japan.

  The chief operating officer of RHD is the Chief Engineer who sits at the top a pyramid organisation structure, with engineers dominating the line functions. Apart from the 9,000 or so permanent employees, RHD is burdened with at least an equal number of temporary lower level staff, who were originally employed under specific projects but managed to stay in employment with support of the unions and other vested groups. Not surprisingly, the RHD is grossly over-manned.

Corruption in the Selection of New Roads

  The identification and selection of new roads to be constructed should be based on cost-benefit analysis, considering the availability of financial resources. In practice, such analysis is rarely done except in the case of donor-funded projects. The task of identifying new road projects has traditionally been "delegated" to ministers, members of parliament, bureaucrats, and the influential local elite, for whom the construction of a road is an effective means of buying future votes. Thus, many of the road projects which are taken up have very little to do with national or regional priority and availability of financial resources. Yet, neither the Planning Commission nor any other relevant agency raises any question about the justification of such "mandatory" projects.

  Until a road is completed, the project sponsors will often invoke the support of a minister or even the prime minister to successfully lobby for additional financial allocations, causing even more wastage of scare developmental funds. Sometimes pressure is brought upon divisional RHD officers who, under the government's administrative and financial rules, are authorised to write cheques on the government account without any limit.

  Projects are rarely completed in time because of the large numbers in the implementation schedule. When a particular stretch of a road is ultimately built and opened to traffic, repairs become necessary before the full length of the road is completed. Development funds are usually diverted for such repair work, with little regard to proper maintenance of accounts for such expenditure.

Corruption in Road Construction

  Widespread corruption is involved in determining the path a new feeder road should follow. It is quite common for affected landowners to bribe junior level RHD officials or use of their political connections to change the course of a road. As a result, a road that had a straight alignment as per the original plan ends up with numerous bends.

  After the commencement of civil work, RHD officials receive kickbacks from the contractors either as a direct payment (usually a percentage of the contract value) at different stages of the job, or as a share of the contractor's surplus arising from an over-billed or fictitious or substandard contract work which was knowingly approved by the RHD engineers in the first place.

  A common example of the second type is the frequent re-carpeting of roads. The annual re-carpeting which takes place in Bangladesh would not be required had the work been done according to RHD's written specifications. By producing sub-standard work, the contractors and the collusive RHD officials jointly ensure the continuity of future corrupt earnings.

  Earthwork is another source of rampant corruption. Embankments of six to eight feet height are often required to protect the road from flooding during the rainy season. Private contractors will usually make the road measurements just before the onset of the rainy season (March to June) and carry out earthwork during the rainy season when parts of the earthwork are washed away, making it impossible to verify the extent of the work. It is common practice for contractors to bill for trucked-in earth, which involves a higher cost, when in fact the earth is usually dug up from the depressed areas on either side of the road. The contractor, who shares a part of it with the RHD executive engineer who certified the work and cleared it for payment, pockets the windfall gains resulting from such fraudulent activities.

Corruption in Engineering Supply and Repair Contracts

  In engineering supply contracts (eg spare parts for ferries), original or genuine parts are never supplied. The contractor, after paying bribes to the RHD hierarchy, has to make some profit for himself after all. There would be nothing left if he purchased a genuine or new part. Sometimes, the contractor will purchase an original part—one, which has been stolen from RHD stores with the connivance of the storekeeper. For repair works, most contracts end up is false or fictitious works since there is no physical supply involved. In some cases, the contract itself is fictitious. If the work is to be done outside of Dhaka, chances are even greater that no actual work or supply will take place.

  The rates of bribe paid to the different levels of RHD officials are well established and known to all relevant parties. Deviations from the standard rates are the prerogative of the higher-level officials. The total bribes paid by a contractor ranges from 37 per cent to 47 per cent of the gross contract value. The effective rate of 40 per cent to 52 per cent of the net contract value, after deduction of VAT and advance income tax.

Selection of Local Contractors

  Local contractors are usually selected through covert negotiation, although records would show that a competitive bidding system, as required by government rules, was followed. Prior to the submission of bids, a tacit understanding between the RHD officials and the contractor syndicate on the allocation of contracts amongst contractors and the contract prices. Competitors do not object to such an arrangement, and wait obediently for their turn in some other contract.

  Outside experts are rarely used for determining the volume of material and labour input, or for preparing the design specifications. As a result, the quantity of work budgeted for is usually much higher than actual requirements. Besides, few projects can be completed within the stipulated period for want of adequate resources. For such delays, contractors are compensated by increasing rates and in other forms providing additional benefits.

Selection of Consultants and Contractors in Aided Projects

  For aided projects, the method of selection of consultants and international contractors is guided by the terms of the loan / grant agreement and the guidelines of the respective development partner. Even so, RHD officials enjoy considerable discretion in determining the ranking criteria for contractors involved in the pre-qualification. Advance information is passed to select international firms or individuals through their local agents with a view to favouring them in the final selection. In some cases the bid documents are manipulated to favour a particular firm.

  Although the donor agency usually approves shortlist of consultants, the final selection lies with the RHD, based on weights assigned to the various selection criteria. There is scope for considerable discretion here, mainly at the higher levels of officials. The bid evaluation report and the recommendations of the evaluation committee are not made public before the final selection.

  Cases have also been reported where RHD officials had to make decisions (in selecting consultants/contractors) respecting the wishes of the administrative and political authorities and the ministry. As a result, there have been cases where the selection changed when the "authority" changed. In the Jamuna Bangabandhu Bridge project, selection of the consultant for construction of the access road was changed several times with change of such "authorities". This process may lead to selection of consultants who are not technically the best, but are found "acceptable" on other considerations, at times with disastrous consequences.

Corruption in Consulting Activities

  Consultants pay, on average, 12 to 15 per cent of their fee as bribe at the time of commissing of the contract. The money is divided between ministry officials, and the members of RHD's Technical Evaluation Committee. Interestingly, the corruption level in the RHD is judged to be "moderate" compared to other government departments. The RHD rate is usually between 2 and 6 per cent of the consultant's fees, whereas in other departments, the rate is not only higher (up to 15 per cent) but is applied to the sum of consultant fees plus out-of-pocket expenses. RHD is by far the largest user of consultants and the recipients of bribes apparently abide by the dictum of "not killing the goose that lays the golden egg".


  The Governments of Bangladesh (GOB), past and present, have failed to generate a high rate of recovery and it relates to number of factors: constraints of law, efficacy of enforcement and collusive arrangements between the executing agency and the assessees. This problem of under collection applies to all variety of public revenues from direct taxes to revenue from public utilities, such as electricity, gas, telecommunications, water and sewerage. The problem here is social, political and institutional.

  Corruption is pervasive in the customs department mainly because of the immense discretionary and monopoly powers vested in and enjoyed by customs officers in a system where accountability is conspicuous by its absence. A secondary reason is the absence of institutional discipline, whereby career planning decisions, transfers and postings are made on the basis of pressures, gratification and other considerations instead of clearly established principles. The situation is made worse by an absence of moral commitment on the part of customs officers, arising from a flawed system of recruitment which is based on transfers or promotions from other government departments or ministries, instead of direct and focused recruitment followed by training. Corruption is certainly not a transitory phenomenon here.

  "The indiscipline may originate from below but its persistence and consolidation derive from the failure of political will at the top to stop the rot and to impose the democratic authority of the regime in enforcing administrative order . . .. Interestingly enough, regimes which have come to power with a clear democratic mandate are equally inept at taking on the vested forces both of the bureaucracy and society . .. In the absence of any serious political prospect to either economise or rationalize current expenditures, the burden of adjustment falls on the Annual Development Plan (ADP) whose share of GDP has remained unchanged over nearly two decades. This has serious consequences for stimulating growth since public investment, largely aid-funded, can have a catalytic effect on economic growth. However, ADP budgets remain underused, aid lies unspent with a project aid pipeline, which has doubled from $3 billion to $6 billion in the last 10 years. Over a third of the ADP is padded with items of recurring expenditure, which cannot be accommodated in the revenue budget . . . the large ADP projects themselves often tend to be misconceived, or over-designed, uncoordinated with collateral projects, poorly implemented, and after completion, inefficiently managed. Thus, ADP projects represent both an inefficient use of public funds as well as a failure to derive the expected returns from such investments. Most of those problems associated with public expenditure are governance related, reflecting lack of transparency in design and execution, lack of accountability, weak supervision, potential for large scale corruption and eventually inefficient management of the end-product (see appendix 2—Judicial Review application challenging the establishment of a container port on transparency grounds[2]). Thus public revenues are lower than they need to be whilst public current expenditures are higher than they need to be. Public development expenditures whilst much lower than is appropriate from the resources available to the GOB, tend to be wastefully spent and inefficiently managed. This means that mis-governance is giving Bangladesh a much lower level of public savings, investment and GDP growth than would be available to her within a better governed system." (Crisis in Governance: A Review of Bangladesh's Development 1997)

Transparency International Bangladesh Survey

  In 1996, Transparency International's Bangladesh chapter conducted a survey of 2,500 rural and urban households to determine people's experience with corruption and their perception of its prevalence. In addition to seeking respondents" views about the definition of corruption, the survey covered 10 sectors where corruption was believed to be rife and underscored the ways in which the respondents suffered from corruption.


Police and Courts

    —  96 per cent of HHs said they have to pay the police to get any help or service

    —  63 per cent of HHs involved in court cases said they have to bribe court officials and lawyers

    —  89 per cent of HHs involved in court cases said it was almost impossible to get fair and quick judgment from the court without money or influence


    —  74 per cent of HHs said it required extra-regular methods to get children into school

    —  42 per cent of HHs said it was not possible for children to get good results or promotion into next higher class without hiring teacher as private tutor


    —  40 per cent of HHs reported extra pay was needed to get admission to hospitals

    —  41 per cent of patients at hospitals said they did not get their medicine without extra pay

Business Licenses

    —  65 per cent of HHs said it took money or influence to get licenses


    —  32 per cent of HHs reduce their electricity and water bills through extra payments

    —  47 per cent of HHs reduce their tax bill through extra payments

Land Administration

    —  85 per cent of HHs involved in land sales/purchases reported need to make extra payments to officials to get sale registered

Places of Corruption

  Main institutions where bribery is said to be necessary are

    —  Thana Police (97 per cent of HHs) and

    —  Courts (89 per cent of HHs)

Perceived causes of corruption

    —  "get rich quick"—76 per cent

    —  "moral degradation"—58 per cent

    —  "lack of accountability"—51 per cent

    —  "inadequate salary"—32 per cent

  Seventy-six percent of the respondents defined corruption as the misuse of position and power and the neglect of duty. The judicial system and the police were identified as the most corrupt sectors in Bangladesh. More than 96 percent of the respondents stated that it was impossible to get help from the police without money or influence and 89 per cent felt that quick and just settlement from the courts was impossible without resorting to bribes or influence. Most households reported having to pay bribes to obtain health services, education services, municipal services, transport services, land title records, and loans from the financial system.

  (see appendix 3—Survey on Corruption in Bangladesh, Transparency International Bangladesh, December 1997[3]).

  It is no wonder that accelerated public investments in health and education are not matched with improved governance in these sectors. Consequently, even today Bangladesh's human development indicators remain comparable to those of Bihar, India's socially most backward state. Health is another problem area: the bottom 20 per cent of the rural health population spends 7-10 per cent of income on meeting private medical expenses, whereas the benefits from the public health service (PHS) are equivalent to only 1 to 3 per cent of their income. This dependence on private healthcare provides, which is usually of poor quality, a reflection of the lack of confidence of the poor in the public health facilities, arising from the mis-governance of these programmes.

  Public Administration Reform Commission observed that "The general perception of people is that almost all important institutions of public life—the law and order agency, the judiciary, the revenue collection departments, the service sector, the financial sector, to name a few, and majority of public servants of all categories working in them are involved in corruption. Corruption has become so pervasive that the press in Bangladesh, Transparency International and many development partners have drawn attention of the government of Bangladesh from time to time for taking urgent remedial measures to combat it." (Public Administration for 21st Century—Report of the Public Administration Reform Commission Volume 1, June 2000)

Transparency International Bangladesh News Scan Report

  The sampling technique included developing a data bank through collection of news from nine national dailies over a six-month period Newspapers are a good source of current information since many corruption-related reports are published in the newspapers everyday focusing on various sectors such as Police, Forest Department and Local Government. By scanning nine dailies for six months (January-June 2000) TIB News Scan Database Team gathered one thousand three hundred and forty five corruption cases ie more than 224 cases in each month or about 51 cases each week.


  While scanning news coverage on corruption the News Scan Database Team also found corruption cases against the officials working in 36 of the mentioned thirty-seven sectors/departments/directorates. Among these, Law Enforcement Agency, which included police, BDR and Ansar and VDP, were found to be the most corrupt service sector (20.67 per cent). The reported number of cases against this sector was 278. The table below ranks corruption by sector/department/directorate.

Table 3.1

Sector/Department/ Reported Cases Sector/Department/ Reported Cases

Directorate %N Directorate %N
Law Enforcement20.67278 Fisheries and Livestock0.67 9
Local Government11.67 157Cultural Affairs0.67 9
Education10.93147 Agriculture0.598
Health7.81105 Prison Administration0.52 7
Forest and Environment4.46 60Department of Narcotics 0.527
Direct and Indirect Tax4.46 60Public Works and Housing 0.456
Finance4.3158 Judiciary0.456
Communication3.7951 Energy and Mineral Resource 0.45 6
Water Resource3.4947 Civil Aviation and Tourism0.37 5
Post and Telecommunication2.97 40 Disaster Management and Relief 0.375
Power2.9039 Defense Service0.304
Land Administration2.38 32Sports and Youth0.30 4
Commerce and Industry1.26 17Religious Affair0.22 3
Shipping1.1215 Information0.142
Parliamentary Affairs1.12 15Election Commission0.07 1
Passport and Immigration1.12 15Bureau of Anti-corruption 0.000
Social Welfare0.8211 NGO1.5621
Food Department0.8211 Private Service Organization4.68 63
Political Party 1.5621
Total 100.001345

  Table 3.1 also shows that the first four sectors represent half of the total reported cases (51.08 per cent). The next 8 sectors represent about 30 per cent of the reported cases. Bureau of Anti-corruption was the only department without any reported cases.

Corruption in Law Enforcement Agency

  During the study period Law Enforcement Agencies (Police, BDR, Ansar and VDP) was found to be the most corrupt service sector. In recent years corruption in police department has been widely publicized. Several reports (WB 2000, US Human Rights Report 2000) revealed that corruption is widespread in police service in Bangladesh. In 1997, TIB in its "Survey on Corruption in Bangladesh" also found police service as one of the most corrupt sectors.

  Total number of reported cases against Law Enforcement Agencies was 278, out of which 254 cases were against police department. This includes Detective Branch (DB) police, Metropolitan police, Thana/Upazila police, traffic police and district police line. The reported number of cases against BDR, which is the border petrol force, was 18 while it was 6 for both Ansar and Vliiage Defence Party (VDP). Table 3.2 shows the breakdown of corruption in Law Enforcement Agency by department and type of corruption.

Table 3.2

Type of CorruptionPolice BDRAnsar and VDP
Abuse of Power1233 3
Bribery5111 2
Embezzlement10 1
Extortion280 0
Fraud10 0
Influence Peddling0 00
Misuse of Resources3 10
Nepotism10 0
Refusal to Provide Services/Perform
Total254 186

  Abuse of power was widespread in police department. About half of the reported cases (123) that were published are related to abuse of power. Analysis reveals that discretionary power granted under Act 54 have been the source of abuse of power for this department.


  At Local Government level, Union Parishad was reported to be the most corrupt with 48 cases of corruption. District Parishad and Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) follow Union Parishad with 23 cases of corruption. Third in line is the Thana Parishad with 21 reported cases of corruption. The lowest in the hierarchy is City Corporation and Pourashava with a total reported cases of 11.

  Unlike Law Enforcement Agency, the local level officials use their office for misappropriating public resources. Most of the misappropriation took place under the VGD and VGF program where chairman and members of the Union Parishard misused fund, wheat, rice and other allocated public resources. Some of the cases show that Union Parishad in collusion with other local government organizations like Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) misdirected public funds. For example, wheat and rice were misappropriated under "Food for Work" program to reconstruct a local embankment. Government is looking into various reform measures for local government units. The corruption cases reported on the Local Government level indicate that more checks and control need to be in place to stop the malpractices. Close scrutiny is also needed in the areas where misappropriation takes place.

Table 3.3

Type of
Union Parishad District ParishadLGED Upazila/Thana ParishadCity Corpo-ration Pouras
PHED Development AuthorityWA
Ministry of Local Government
Abuse of Power64 342 4230 1
Bribery12 121 0010 0
Embezzlement378 961 4300 1
Extortion11 100 1000 0
Fraud22 4400 221 0
Misuse of Resources11 533 0000 0
Influence Peddling01 000 0000 0
Nepotism01 010 0010 0
Refusal to Provide Services0 301 4210 20
Total4823 232111 11873 2


  Education is one of the largest and important public service providers in Bangladesh. The National Plan of Action (NPA) 1990 in its overview stated that lack of basic education was the Achilles hell of the society and economy of Bangladesh. Millions of dollars have already been pumped into this sector but the situation is far from satisfactory level.

Table 3.4

Type of CorruptionSecondary School CollegeEducation Board Food for EducationPrimary School Education MinistryEducation Office Univer-
Technical Institute
Abuse of Power64 1000 2461 1
Bribery52 111 2200 0
Embezzlement114 697 3410 2
Fraud22 2110 006 0
Refusal to Provide Services2 105 5112 00
Extortion110 000 0000 0
Nepotism00 000 0010 0
Influence Peddling00 000 0000 0
Misuse of Resources01 204 4000 0
Total27 242116 141211 1183

  In all department/directorate of education sector TIB Database Team monitored 147 cases published in nine dailies during the study period. Embezzlement was the most common form of (47) reported cases, followed by abuse of power (32). Refusal to provide services (17), bribery and fraud (14) were also significant in the education sector. Only one case of nepotism was found and no case was found on influence peddling.

  It is also evident from the table that about half of the cases were reported as abuse of power in six education boards. Embezzlement (six) was also widespread among the boards. In "Food for Education" most of the reported cases were identified as embezzlement (nine) and in primary school half of the cases (seven) were belonged to this type. The rest of the cases were reported against Education Ministry (12), Education offices (11) and University (11) and eight cases were reported on madrashas (religious schools).


  The government has dedicated ample resources to the health sector in order to fulfill its target "health for all" by the year 2000.

Table 3.5

Type of
Health Complex
(Upazila & Dist)
Medical College
Civil Surgeon
Family PlanningHealth Ministry
Abuse of Power98 301
Bribery20 301
Embezzlement47 972
Fraud20 611
Misuse of Resources12 101
Nepotism00 100
Refusal to Provide Services16 912 0
Extortion12 000
Influence Peddling02 000
Total35 302410 6

  TIB identified 105 corruption cases in the health sector. Embezzlement and refusal to provide services are the most common form of corrupt practice. Out of the 35 reported cases of corruption against Health Complexes located in the districts and Upazilas, 16 were refusal to provide services due to absentee health officials and doctors. In addition doctors were often engaged in private practices. Embezzlement was found in the Civil Surgeon Office, where officials misappropriated fund allocated for expensive medical equipment and machinery. Misuse of resources has been stemming from lack of inspection and absence of proper regulatory bodies. For example, due to lack of inspection many shops are able to sell life saving drugs without proper license.


  Table 3.6 shows the distribution of reported corruption cases related to on forestry and environment.

  During our study period fifty-nine cases were reported on forest department with officials and employees of Forest Department permitted the wood smugglers to cut trees from forests. Sometimes cutting and selling of trees by the officials themselves were reported. In exchange of bribery, the forest officials directly cooperated with timber traders to cut huge quantity of wood and poachers to kill animals. The highest number of cases about Forest Department was embezzlement (20) reflecting one-third of the total reported cases in this sector. The number of cases related to abuse of power was 14 followed by 12 cases of bribery.

Table 3.6

Type of Corruption

Forest Department % Department of Environment

Embezzlement33.9020 0
Abuse of Power23.73 141
Bribery20.3412 0
Misuse of Resources11.86 70
Refusal to Provide Services/Perform Duties 5.0930
Fraud3.392 0
Extortion1.691 0
Nepotism0.000 0
Influence Peddling0.00 00
Total100.00 591


  Taxation is the largest source of revenue for the government of Bangladesh. Direct and Indirect Taxation departments consisted of Customs, Revenue, VAT and taxation administration.

  There were 60 reported cases of corruption in the nine dailies during the six-month data collection period. Abuse of power and bribery were the most frequently reported cases in customs department. Seventeen cases related to abuse of power were reported while the number of reported cases on bribery was 15. Tax collectors were found to collect excess tax in violation of government rules. Other reported cases were release of illegal imported goods and misappropriation of fund collected as taxes.

Table 3.7

Type of CorruptionCustoms (%) RevenueTaxation
Abuse of Power17 (34.00) 21
Bribery15 (30.00)2 2
Embezzlement5 (10.00) 00
Extortion5 (10.00)1 0
Fraud5 (10.00)1 1
Refusal to Provide Services3 (6.00) 00
Misuse of Resources0 (0.00) 00
Nepotism0 (0.00)0 0
Influences Peddling0 (0.00) 00
Total50 (100.00) 64


  Fraud, embezzlement and abuse of power are the most common form of corrupt practices in the financial sector with most of the reported cases occurring in the nationalized banks. During the research period, there were 56 reported cases on corruption out of which 21 were fraud, 19 on embezzlement and 14 on abuse of power. There were two cases on abuse of power. Other examples of corruption involved a group of bank officials in nationalized banks submitting false papers to draw agricultural loan by claiming to be poor farmers. In another case a farmer got an agricultural loan which was less than the sanctioned amount. Some officials were involved in forging Letters of Credit (LC) and selling US dollars in the black market. General Manager (GM) and other high bank officials were observed to use personal preference in providing loans.

Table 3.8

Type of CorruptionNationalised
Fraud210 000
Embezzlement190 000
Abuse of Power142 000
Bribery10 000
Extortion10 000
Refusal to Provide Services/Perform Duties 0000 0
Nepotism00 000
Influence Peddling00 000
Misuse of Resources00 000
Total562 000


  There were 49 reported cases of corruption in the transport and communication sector with abuse of power the dominant form of corruption practice. There were 18 cases of abuse of power of which 13 cases were reported on Bangladesh Railway department.

Table 3.9

Types of
Bangladesh Railway Roads and HighwaysBRTA BRTC
Abuse of Power133 20
Bribery01 10
Embezzlement65 00
Extortion20 20
Fraud10 00
Influence Peddling0 000
Misuse of Resources5 000
Nepotism01 00
Refusal to Provide Services4 300
Total31 1550

  There were total of 31 cases reported against Bangladesh Railway followed by 13 cases against Roads and Highways and five cases on BRTA. There were 11 cases of embezzlement and seven cases of refusal to provide services.

  Other examples of corruption in Communication sector involved officials in Roads and Highways misappropriating funds allocated for construction works and giving away tender work on the basis of nepotism without bidding. There were reported cases on issuing illegal licenses, fitness certificates, route permits, Blue books by BRTA office.


  Water Resources sector consists of Water Development Board (WDB), Irrigation, Water Resource Ministry and WAPDA. Most of the reported cases of corruption were on WDB. Out of a total of 46 reported cases 21 cases related to embezzlement. There were 10 cases on misuse of resources and 6 cases on abuse of power. There were some cases relating to bribery (three) and refusal to provide services (four).

  There were reported cases of embezzlement and abuse of power at WDB when some of their officials by-passed tender process and selected constructors after taking bribes. Project directors, engineers and other officials misappropriated public funds in various construction projects. There were reported cases of corruption on Water Resource Ministry.

Table 3.10

Type of CorruptionWDB (%) IrrigationWater Resource Ministry WAPDA
Embezzlement17 (47.23) 400
Misuse of Resources8 (22.22) 110
Abuse of Power4 (11.11) 020
Bribery3 (8.33) 0 00
Refusal to Provide Services3 ( 8.33) 100
Extortion1 (2.79) 0 00
Nepotism0 (0.00) 0 00
Influence Peddling0 (0.00) 000
Fraud0 (0.00) 0 10
Total36 (100.00) 640


  There were 40 reported cases of corruption in Post and Telecommunication sector and most of those cases were related to abuse of power (11) followed by embezzlement (eight) and bribery (seven). Others were cases of refusal to provide services (five) and fraud (four). Officials at BTTB are commonly found to harass subscribers by providing false bills and taking bribes to reduce the bills. Corruption also takes the form of extortion of money by threatening disconnection of lines. Refusal to provide services is a more common type of corruption practice within Post Offices.

Table 3.11

Type of CorruptionBTTB Post Office
Abuse of Power92
Influence Peddling0 0
Misuse of Resources3 0
Refusal to Provide Services0 5
Total25 15


  Power Service Sector consists of PDB, DESA, PBS and REB. Reported cases of corruption in this sector during the research period were 39. PDB was reported to have the highest number of corruption cases (23) followed by DESA (10), PBS (five) and REB (one). Most of the cases related to abuse of power (15), followed by embezzlement (seven), bribery (five), fraud (four) and misuse of resources (four).

  PDB officials and engineers are involved in various types of irregularities such as taking bribes from public for reducing bills. 60 crore taka (USD 0.01 billion) was embezzled by showing system loss, which means unauthorized and illegal connections.

Table 3.12

Type of CorruptionPDB DESAPBS REB
Abuse of Power105 00
Bribery50 00
Embezzlement42 10
Extortion10 10
Fraud21 10
Influence Peddling0 000
Refusal to Provide Services1 000
Nepotism00 10
Misuse of Resources0 211
Total23 1051


  During the news scan survey period there were 32 reported case of corruption in Land Administration and out of 37 directorate/sector surveyed land administration was found to be the 13th most corrupt department. Most of the cases reported were bribery (12), abuse of power (seven), extortion (five). There were also cases of fraud, embezzlement and refusal to provide services.

Table 3.13

Type of CorruptionReported Cases%N
Abuse of Power21.87 7
Refusal to Provide Services6.25 2
Misuse of Resources3.13 1
Influence Peddling0.00 0
Total100.00 32


  There are 496 upazilas/thanas in Bangladesh (BBS Statistical Pocket Book 1998). TIB Data Base Team looked at the corruption-reports in all these thanas/upazilas. Out of total number of upazilas/thanas except 16 had no incidence of corruption.

Table 3.14

Name of the Thana/UpazilaReported Cases %N
Sherpur (Bogra)0.89 12
Barisal Sadar0.8211
Comilla Sadar0.8211
Srimangal Sadar0.82 11
Mymensingh Sadar0.74 10
Lakshmipur Sadar0.66 9
Rangamati Sadar0.45 6
Jhenaidah Sadar0.45 6
Natore Sadar0.456

  NB: Upazila/thana that had five or less number of reported cases was not included in the table. Furthermore, if a particular type of case were to be prevalent throughout the district it was not included within any thana/upazila.

  On the other hand no case was found in the following unions: Aditmari, Atgharia, Akkelpur, Bagatipara, Barhatta, Barkal, Beani Bazar, Daulatpur, Fenchuganj, Harirampur, Hossainpur, Kumarkhali, Manpur, Rampal, Saturia and Sullah.


  TIB News Scan Database Team found corruption reports from all 64 districts of Bangladesh. The highest number of cases (221) was reported against the officials/employees of Dhaka district and Chittagong was second highest with 78 reported cases.

Table 3.15

Name of the DistrictReported Cases %N Name of the DistrictReported Cases %N
Dhaka16.43221 Jhalakhati1.0414
Chittagong5.8078 Kishoreganj1.0414
Patuakhali3.5748 Kustia1.0414
Jessore3.2043 Manikganj0.9713
Moulavi Bazar3.1242 Rajshahi0.9713
Comolla2.6836 Barguna0.8912
Mymensingh2.6035 Dinajpur0.8912
Sherpur2.3832 Khulna0.8912
Barisal2.2330 Rangpur0.8211
Jhenaidah2.2330 Brahmanbaria0.7410
Lakshmipur2.1629 Chandpur0.7410
Netrokona2.1629 Lalmonirhat0.7410
Narayanganj2.0828 Rajbari0.7410
Niphamari2.0828 Thakurgaon0.679
Pabna2.0127 Bandarban0.679
Bogra1.9326 Chuadanga0.679
Nawabganj1.7824 Gazipur0.598
Tangail1.7123 Madaripur0.598
Cox's Bazar1.6422 Magura0.598
Jamalpur1.6422 Meherpur0.598
Naogaon1.6422 Munshiganj0.598
Rangamati1.5621 Narsingdi0.527
Bagerhat1.4920 Sunamganj0.527
Noakhali1.4920 Gopalganj0.456
Sirajganj1.4219 Panchagarh0.456
Faridpur1.3418 Sylhet0.375
Natore1.3418 Shariatpur0.375
Pirojpur1.2617 Kurigram0.304
Habiganj1.1916 Khagrachari0.304
Satkhira1.1215 Narail0.223
Bhola1.0414 Feni0.152
Gaibandha1.0414 Joypurhat0.152
Nation Wide 0.22 3Regional 0.152

  Number of cases in Patuakhali (48), Jessore (43), Moulavi Bazar (42) varied between 40-50 while the reported cases were found to be 36,35, 32, 30 and 30 in Comilla, Mymensingh, Sherpur, Barisal and Jhenaidah, respectively. 16 districts were found to have reported-cases between 20 to 29, while twenty-one districts had 10 to 19 cases each. Three cases were monitored that covered the whole country and two were reported covering regionally.


  At an individual level first class officials were found to be more corrupt than others. The number of reported cases against them was 399. The second highest number of cases was against second-class officials (219), while the number of monitored cases against both third and fourth-class officials was less than 50.

Table 3.16

Actor LevelReported Cases %N
Elected Official8.18 110
Higher Official6.99 94
First Class Official29.67 399
Second Class Official16.28 219
Third Class Official3.57 48
Fourth Class Official3.05 41
Autonomous Official9.74 131

  NB: Higher Official = Joint Secretary and Higher.

  Cases reported against higher officals were 94, while elected officials 110.


Victims of Corruption

  Table 3.16 shows the distribution of victims of corruption in reported cases.

Table 4.1

Name of the VictimReported Cases %N
Government Official2.75 37
NGO Worker0.223
Total100.00 1,345

  It is evident from the table that the government officials were mainly to be blamed. About 500 cases were reported on government officials. The second group was made up of most incurring class was the citizens which represents more than 30 per cent of all reported cases. Students, businessmen, government officials, farmers, teachers and some other professionals from different segments were found suffering in the reported cases.

Effects of Corruption

  The effects of all reported cases could not be measured in monetary terms. Some cases reflected damage on environment, some violated human/citizen rights, while some cases were related to physical harassment. Due to lack of information, TIB database Team could not measure the financial loss.

Table 4.2

Type of EffectsReported Cases %N
Deterioration of Law and Order5.28 71
Financial Loss48.70

(govt 211, citizen
72, unknown 372)
Violation of Citizen's Right 16.73 225
Environmental Degradation 5.35 72
Violation of Human Rights 2.01 27
Physical Harassment 1.12 15
Other 6.9193
Unknown 13.90187
Total100.00 1,345

  During our study period the total amount of loss for the government from the reported 211 cases amounted to TK 11534.98 crore (USD 2.14 billion). This figure doesn't include the loss to citizens who paid bribes to corrupt officials (eg businessmen paying bribes to the police officials for performing duties). Furthermore, misappropriation of food grain by Union Parishad (UP) Chairmen and members was not converted into cash, which was estimated to be 1000 metric tons during the study period.

Financial Loss in Reported Cases

  During our study period 655 reported cases related to financial loss. Among these 211 cases illustrated financial loss, amounting to Tk11534.98 crore (USD 2.14 billion), and from various government sectors.

Table 4.3

Name of the Sector
Amount Loss
(Tk in Crore)
2Local Government2,111.23
4Water Resources1,978.83
6Commerce and Industry 783.47
8Forest and Environment 228.67
9Direct and Indirect Tax 119.32
12Food department12.09
13Social Welfare1.53
14Passport and Immigration 1.05
15Law Enforcement Agency 0.87
Other Government Sectors 115.69

  The government incurred highest level of financial loss from the education sector, ie Tk 2305.48 crore (USD 0.43 billion). Total reported financial loss amounted to Tk 2111.23 crore (USD 0.39 billion) for local government. The monetary loss for Health, Water Resources and Finance was Tk 2051.48 crore (USD 0.38 billion), Tk 1978.83 crore (USD 0.37 billion) and Tk 993.25 crore (USD 0.18 billion) respectively.

  The World Bank in its report stated that Bangladesh could achieve 2 to 3 per cent of additional GDP growth by eliminating corruption (WB 2000). In 1997-98 the total GDP of was Tk1548.33 billion which is equivalent to US $ 28.67 billion. On the other hand the financial loss amounted to US $ 2.14 billion, which is 7.46 per cent of Bangladesh GDP.

Action Taken Against Reported Cases

  Table 3.10 shows the action taken and the name of the authority initiating the action against the reported cases. Out of 1345 cases, action was taken against 453 cases. The role of the concerned department was found to be more frequent than Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC). The BAC dealt with only 116 cases. They investigated 23 cases and filed charges against 86 cases. The number of chargesheet (five), initiated by BAC, was very low.

Table 4.5

Type of ActionAction Taken by BACConcerned
Police CitizenUnknown
Suspended6 4900 055
Inquiry234 6330 497
Case Filed864 282432 2176
Charge Sheet5 1 110 08
Conviction*20 400 06
Protest0 10015 732
Closed0 1500 015
Reported to the Authority 0 31418 17658
Transfer 0 2 4 0 0 0 6
Grand Total 116 20 188 46 64 19 453

  NB: Charge sheeted by BAC and Convicted by court.

  The concerned ministry dealt with only 20 cases, while the concerned department dealt with 188 cases. They suspended (permanently and temporarily) 49 persons for conducting corruption, investigated 63 cases and submitted charge sheet against 28 reported cases. Police also dealt with 46 reported cases.

  The information/data to be found in the news scan report has been collected from newspapers only. People often do not remember the variety of different news published in the newspapers. Working as watchdog, TIB monitored the news, added value to the news published by compiling them over a given period of time and subsequently analyzed them. Through the compilation of data we tried to:

    —  measure the pervasiveness of corruption;

    —  identify the levels of corrupt officials;

    —  define the loss to the government from reported cases;

    —  identify the most corruption-prone area (thana and district) of Bangladesh;

    —  identify the role of BAC and other government agencies in curbing corruption;

    —  inform the government and the people of the extent of corruption in various government departments.

Conclusion—The Role of Civil Society

  Bangladesh is not alone in the fight against bad governance. Due to the collusive nature of corruption-relationship and a distinct lack of incentive to change such behaviour it is far too important a task to be just left to politicians. As poor political governance is at the heart of the present malaise in Bangladesh, as in so many other countries, the civil society will have to be involved with the process to regenerate public opinion to curb corruption.

  Everyone seems to know about corruption, often from hearsay, but solid documentary evidence is, in the nature of things, hard to find. Surveys, if credibly undertaken, are invaluable in providing hard data in answer to such questions as "did you have to bribe an official to get your driving license, or land title, or passport?". Armed with such data, it is much harder for officials simply to brush the matter aside as baseless. Moreover, the public relations impact is always much greater.

  Surveys and diagnostic studies provide the grist for the mill of public opinion, but TIB also recognizes that it needs to also work to organize lobbies around the country. The long-term target would be to have a presence in every parliamentary constituency. As a start it has begun setting up a network of Committees of Concerned Citizens (CCCs). These are seen as self-sustaining groups of individuals who, with the support of TIB's central organization, will campaign locally against corruption. They may also prepare regular "report cards" on the performance of local government departments and service agencies, and lobby for improved local service delivery. Thus, reducing corruption would be just one part of a larger set of concerns of interest to the local population.

  Winning over the minds of the young so that they see corruption not as an inescapable fact of life, to which one accommodates oneself, but rather as cancer in society that threatens their future and should be challenged at every opportunity. TIB has sponsored an essay competition among schoolchildren in conjunction with a national newspaper.

    —  Greater access to information is critical for citizens to assert their rights.

    —  Electronic and printed media have to strengthened.

    —  Members of Parliament and Parliamentary committees to be provided with institutional capacity to investigate and disseminated their findings.

Forging Partnerships to Fight Corruption

  TIB recognizes that a key to its effectiveness will be its ability to create a strong civil society coalition to fight corruption as a common cause. This coalition will comprise not only NGOs interested in human rights and environmental issues and the numerous private voluntary development organizations active at the village and district level, but many other groups: professional and business organizations, private research institutes, and the Press.

  TIB's dialogue with the business community is principally through the Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The aim has been to encourage the chambers to propagate a clear message to their members on the importance of adhering to honest business practices in order to gain the respect and the trust of the community and to reduce the cost of doing business. The business community can identify the ways their members encounter corruption and joint programs to combat corruption developed.

  NGOs are already playing an impressive role at the grassroots level making the poor aware of their rights, helping them to organize and providing voter education. In the 1996 general election the NGOs encouraged voters to ask whether candidates were loan defaulters or had any criminal convictions or were known to be corrupt. The defeat of over twenty Ministers was in no small way due to the enhanced awareness of their reputation for venality. The NGOs are the natural allies of the CCCs.

  An area of cooperation still to be explored is with local professional groups such as accountants, lawyers and the like. Working with trade unions will be another challenge, to convince the workers that they would benefit from a society freer of corruption and encourage them to tackle their leaders notorious collusion with corrupt officials in public agencies.

    —  Greater emphasis on creating a conducive environment to encourage ethical behaviour amongst civil society stakeholders.

    —  Greater emphasis on human resource development (as opposed to creating new institutions and laws) to secure human freedoms.


  TIB has clearly understood that mere exhortation is useless in achieving change. Not only must one build public opinion through data collection, press campaigns and nurturing a powerful civil society coalition, but one must also identify a set of credible measures to reduce corruption. The public must be convinced that there are practical actions that would indeed reduce corruption. So far TIB has highlighted a number of such measures, including most importantly: repealing the Official Secrets' Act; requiring Ministers and Members of Parliament to make a public declaration of their assets every year; appointing an Ombudsman; enacting a Freedom of Information Act; making public the deliberations of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee; creating an independent television and radio broadcasting authority; separating the Judiciary from the Executive; and having the Anti-Corruption Bureau report directly and publicly to Parliament, not secretly to the Prime Minister.

    —  Development assistance has to take into account the long term nature of good governance reform.

    —  Donors' awareness of holistic nature of reform agenda, and also informing their taxpayers.

Public Opinion and Parliament

  Ultimately it is Parliament that must hold the government accountable for its performance. And, in turn, the electorate holds Parliament accountable. Consequently, the link between civil society and the goal of reducing corruption should be above all through Parliament. At present this link in Bangladesh is particularly weak. This underlines the importance to be attached, on the one hand, to Parliamentary reform and, on the other, to the role of CCCs, NGOs, and other civil society organizations, which are active at the constituency level. As part of TIB's holistic approach it is critical that crystallization of political will is seen as both "bottom-up" and "top-down" process.

  Changing the attitudes and behavior takes time. So far TIB cannot claim that any concrete success in reducing corruption in Bangladesh. However, the activities of TIB in building a strong partnership with civil society have firmly placed corruption on the public agenda. Parliamentarians have a pivotal role to play and they will ignore this fact at their peril.

    —  Encourage a synergy between public opinion and Members of Parliament.

    —  Encourage reform within present political institutions.

    —  Expand the scope of international conventions to address issues such as foreign donations to political parties, stricter banking laws to discourage money laundering and secret bank accounts.

Manzoor Hasan

Executive Director

Transparency International Bangladesh

November 2000

1   Not printed. Available at Back

2   Not printed. Available at Back

3   Not printed. Available at Back

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