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Outsiders dominate ACC

Autonomy undermined: governance campaigners

Ahammad Foyez | Published: 23:46, Feb 04,2021 | Updated: 00:48, Feb 05,2021

 
 

Government officers, mostly from the administration cadre, hold key positions at the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Such a situation undermines the commission’s autonomous status, governance campaigners said.

The trend related to post government officials to the commission on deputation also makes the institution vulnerable to outside pressures and influences, they observed.

An absolute control of the government on the commission has been established through this posting trend, they said.

There were allegations that officers of the cadre services, mainly from the administration cadre, are highly privileged in the commission as the chairman and a commissioner of the three-member commission are former admin cadres and rest one from judiciary.

Additionally, a secretary of the commission is from admin cadre and of the eight occupying the director general posts, six are from admin cadres, one is from the judiciary while another post still remains vacant.

Of the 37 posts of directors, at least 10 are from the admin cadre and over a dozen admin cadres have been hired for the cadre service in the posts of deputy director.

Only one official in the position of director and deputy director post is from the police cadre.

According to ACC insiders, corruption allegations against admin cadres are dumped at the stage of scrutiny in most cases and if any of them are accused in any case, they are relieved during the investigation in most occasions.

They said that the action against the corrupt cadre officials mostly involved sending recommendations to the authority concerned for departmental actions.

They said that the prosecution of a bureaucrat named Rezaul Karim Torfadar, a former member of the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, along with two other bureaucrats on June 26, 2019 was an exception. The two were former Rajuk chairman KAM Harun and its member Gulam Kibria.

The case was filed accusing 20 people on charge of corruption involving the construction of five additional floors of FR Tower.

But the commission approved a charge sheet on the case in November 2020, dropping the names of the three bureaucrats from the list of the accused, ACC officials said.

Governance campaigners and jurists said that the commission should focus on making its employees skilled enough to carry out commission’s directives.

They said that there was a huge scope for giving undue advantages to the cadre officers by the officials working on deputation at the commission.      

Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman told New Age that the dominance of government officials in general and those of the administration cadre in particular in high-level positions at the ACC contradicts the purpose and the spirit of the commission, especially if its independent functioning is considered.

‘Due to their allegiance to the government as well as their peers and superiors, it often becomes impossible for such officials of the commission to act independently without fear or favour, particularly when allegations of corruption against public officials  are disclosed,’ he added.

Regrettably, this problem has been a legacy since the creation of the commission when instead of forming a totally new commission as envisioned, the former Bureau of Anti-Corruption was transformed into an ACC-like organ which is like putting old wine in a new bottle, he said.

Retired Appellate Division judge AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik said that the commission should train its own people so that they can occupy major posts at the ACC.

As the commission is a quasi-judicial body, before an adequate number of people are ready for the vacant posts, it can hire officers from multi-disciplinary services, including the judiciary and the police.

Jurist Sahdeen Malik said that the trend of placing administration cadres in key positions at the commission was surprising as officers form the police cadre was much appropriate as the commission is an investigating agency.

He said that of the commission filed cases, most are filed against bankers and businesspeople as the cadre service officials are working with relative impunity as they know that their fellows or seniors are running the commission.

Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder told New Age that though the top officials — chairman and commissioners — are from different services after retirement, it is ideal that they would lead the commission without fear and favour.

He said that some officials from other services were hired at the commission to ensure internal checks and balances.

When approached, ACC commissioner Mozammel Haque Khan refused to make any comment.

On December 31, 2020, in a webinar, Ain O Salish Kendra recommended the government not to appoint former bureaucrats at different commissions, including the Election Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

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