Bangladesh set to dilute anti-graft law

Sunday, February 27, 2011

DHAKA - Bangladesh is set to dilute its anti-graft law to keep beyond its purview lawmakers at all levels and require prior permission to probe government officials.

Maintaining utmost secrecy, the government is set to amend the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) laws clipping the anti-graft watchdog’s authority to file cases against any public servant beginning from the head of state to the members of union parishads (civic bodies), The Daily Star said Sunday.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The cabinet also finalised nine more amendments to the law “keeping the ACC completely ignorant about it,” the daily said.

Repeated attempts by the commission to get a written copy of the finalised amendments turned futile.

According to information gleaned by the newspaper, the most damaging amendment would be the provision to require prior permission before filing cases against government officers and employees.

Earlier in the draft proposal sent to the ACC, it was mentioned that permission would be required for filing cases against “government officials and employees”. Based on that confusing wording, different sections of the media reported that lawmakers would remain out of cover.

Asked for a written copy of the finalised amendments to see what the proposal actually means, Cabinet Secretary Abdul Aziz refused to give it, the report said.

“It might confuse people if we make it public now, as the parliament might bring more changes to the proposed amendments,” Aziz said.

“People will know it after it is passed in the parliament by their representatives,” the cabinet secretary said.

Aziz, however, confirmed that as per the proposed amendments, prior permission would be required before filing a case against public servants defined by section 21 of the Penal Code.

The main objective of transforming the Bureau of Anti-Corruption into an independent commission in 2004 was to equip it with power of prosecuting corrupt public servants, who, according to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) surveys, are largely involved in corruption.

The Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International, a US-based anti-corruption watchdog, has courted controversy in the recent years with its annual report on corruption in the country.

Bangladesh is rated very high on the graft record.

ACC chairman Ghulam Rahman expressed the hope that there would be refinement of the proposals in the parliament. He said he expects opinions of people would be considered in the parliament and international anti-corruption laws would be discussed there.

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