THE findings of the Anti-Corruption Commission that all sectors of the land ports and the Bangladesh Land Port Authority are infested with corruption, as New Age reported on Thursday, are worrying. The commission, which handed over its report, with the findings and its recommendations, to the state minister for shipping on Wednesday, has found 14 sources and ways of corruption — from the release of goods and the appointment of contractors to the theft of goods — that have been typical of the land ports and the authorities that govern them. Some land port officials and employees are, in one way or another, involved in the corruption that deprives the government of a large amount of revenue and the service-seekers of their right to services. The officials and employees are reported to be regularly releasing goods from the port without realising duties for personal benefits. The authorities also often violate relevant laws to give jobs to unfit or less eligible contractors to steal public money and to break down large development works into small packages to repeatedly give the jobs to the same contractor. Irregularities are also rife in the procurement process and the recruitment of staff.
An unholy alliance between land port officials and port-based trading syndicates has also been detected. Such an alliance allows officials, including those designated for customs, to release goods in exchange for bribe, without properly examining the scales of low and high tariff, quota and incentive system. There have also been allegations of the theft of goods from warehouses against a section of port officials. All such irregularities and corruption happen, as the commission says, because of a lack of coordination between port employees, clearing and forwarding agents and importers and the absence of strong monitoring. Land ports, which are gateways to and from the country and lets in and out a large amount of goods, are important places for more than one reasons. Irregularities and corruption in the land ports have impact on the price of goods which, in turn, burden people. Bangladesh has already been ranked among the most corrupt countries — coming in the 14th position on the Global Corruption Perception Index 2019, released by the Berlin-based Transparency International. Moreover, Bangladesh is, as the Trace Bribery Risk Matrix 2019 says, identified as the most risky country in terms of bribery threats in South Asia.
Realising the gravity of the impact of corruption on the economy and people’s lives, the government must, under the circumstances, step up its efforts to stop land port corruption that has earned Bangladesh a negative image. The ministry concerned and other relevant agencies must also heed what the Anti-Corruption Commission report has said and work on the recommendations to stop corruption. The government and the authorities concerned must also hold to account the port officials and employees involved in such irregularities and break the unholy alliance between land port officials and port-based trading syndicates.
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