The Anti-Corruption Commission appears to be late in taking action against corruption suspects in most cases after other government agencies make moves against them, giving grounds for the perception that the commission only fulfils government’s political interests, according to governance campaigners.
They said that the commission took actions against suspected offenders as it considered moves by law enforcement agencies against them a ‘message’ from the government.
‘Taking action against corrupt people by the ACC following moves by other agencies is very much frustrating while the independent commission enjoys vast liberty under the law,’ former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder told New Age.
In most cases, he observed, the commission acts or reacts in serving the interests of the government as well as ruling quarters.
In an exchange with New Age, ACC chairman Iqbal Mahmood said that the commission did not work to serve any political interest though it was true that it had serious inefficiencies.
He said that the commission failed to gather information in some cases due to lack of enough capacity.
In the latest example, the commission approved a charge sheet against businessman Monir Hossain, also known as Golden Monir, 13 days after his arrest by the Rapid Action Battalion.
But, according to the ACC, it initiated its inquiry against Monir in 2009 following an allegation that he accumulated illegal wealth.
The commission filed a case against him in 2012 on the charge that he had obtained illegal wealth worth Tk 3.10 crore.
The investigation under the case came to a halt following a stay order passed by the High Court for six years, which was vacated in 2018.
The commission has turned reactive with its charge sheet in the 2009 case against Monir following the recent RAB move against him, said ACC officials.
In another incident, the commission served notices on Directorate General of Health Services driver Abdul Malek and his wife Nargis Begum to submit their wealth statements.
The notices were served on September 20, a day after the RAB arrested Malek on different charges, including on fake currency trading, possession of illegal arms, and extortion.
At a press conference on the day, ACC secretary Md Dilwar Bakht said that the commission was conducting an inquiry into the allegation that Malek had accumulated illegal wealth since 2019.
On November 12, 2019, the commission prosecuted expelled Juba League leader Ismail Hossain Chowdhury Samrat on charges of amassing illegal wealth following his arrest by the RAB 37 days ago.
But the commission took no visible action against Samrat after detecting his investment in the Malaysia My Second Home programme three years earlier.
A team of the commission in early 2017 submitted a proposal to its chairman for sending it to Malaysia after it found that Samrat had bought a house in Ampang town in the country but the proposal was rejected and the team was asked to look into the sources of income of a group of Bangladeshis, including Samrat, who had invested in the second home programme, commission officials said.
They said that there were many examples that the commission reacted following the move by other agencies.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that the trend indicated ACC’s lack of self-confidence and courage to take action against alleged corrupt individuals, especially if they were of high-profile categories, or politically or otherwise powerful, directly or indirectly.
‘Unless specific reasons are provided by the commission for their inaction or delayed action until another agency has taken some action, it can be interpreted that they are not bold enough to act on their own and prefers to play safe by being sure thanks to another agency’s action,’ he added.
Admitting ACC inefficiencies, chairman Iqbal Mahmood said that the commission was arranging training programmes to make its officials efficient.
‘Since my joining the ACC, I have been emphasising that the officials should carry out their inquiry and investigation according to the timeframe, but they have failed,’ he said, adding that now the commission was considering the outcomes of other agencies against corruption suspects as they might be helpful for the commission.
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