ACC must chase large-scale corruption to regain people’s trust

Published: 00:00, Nov 23,2019 | Updated: 00:26, Nov 23,2019


THE Anti-Corruption Commission’s saying that it faces a serious crisis of people’s trust in it and its failures overshadow its success is a heartening self-assessment. Senior commission officials, including the chair, commissioner and the secretary, made the observation at a discussion marking the commission’s 15th anniversary on Thursday. People’s trust issues with the commission appear to have grown on a few valid grounds. The commission often appears to be partisan in its approach and selective in its treatment of corruption cases. Apart from weakness in investigation, some of commission’s officials have been found involved in corruption. The officials say that the commission fails to prove 30 per cent of the case cases in trial stages for lack of efficiency of its officials and that the mistakes in investigation have often benefited the suspects. The involvement of some commission officials in corruption have earlier also made the headlines. Even the prime minister on June 14 made a statement in the parliament that there is a public perception about many of the ACC employees being involved in corruption and that the perception is not totally baseless.

The commission has often come to be criticised, and rightly so, for its inaction about large-scale corruption allegations that more often than not involve either the politically powerful people or government officials or agencies. A case in point is the commission’s dithering, if not inaction, about taking action against many of the corruption allegations in government procurement process. The commission has not also been able to curb the rampant bribery culture, mostly in government offices, although complaints of it are widespread. The country has come to be ranked the most bribery-prone country in South Asia in the recently released Trace Bribery Risk Matrix 2019. The commission has also failed to arrest illicit capital flow which has plagued the economy. According to the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity report, $81.74 billion was siphoned off from the country in 2005–2015. While it has not been able to do much about it, it has also not taken steps to bring back the money siphoned off. There has been a 2013 precedent of the repatriation of a substantial amount of money siphoned off to Singapore. All this has contributed to the waning of people’s trust in the commission.

Now that the commission has realised that people’s trust has waned, it must work to regain the trust and the commission in so doing must go without any bias after large-scale corruption allegations, be it in government procurement process or illicit capital flow and whether they involve people associated with or close to the ruling party or government officials and agencies. At the same time, the commission must ensure efficiency and integrity of its officials.

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