Category Archives: Consumer Rights

New teams to start market monitoring tomorrow

http://www.bssnews.net/newsDetails.php?cat=0&id=201275&date=2011-09-20

New teams to start market monitoring tomorrow

DHAKA, Sept 20 (BSS) – The Commerce Ministry has reconstituted its eight market monitoring teams empowering them to monitor markets from production level to kitchen markets.

The new teams would start market monitoring tomorrow and it will continue till December this year, said an official handout today.

Deputy Secretary of the ministry of commerce will lead each team formed with representatives from ministries of Agriculture, Home, Food and Disaster Management, Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), Dhaka district administration, FBCCI and Bangladesh Tariff Commission (BTC), RAB and Police.

The market monitoring teams will work under a directive of the commerce ministry to appoint distributors.

The new teams will monitor both wholesale and retail markets and inform the ministry of market price, stock and supply situations.

The reconstituted teams have also been empowered to take stringent action against dishonest businessmen and even conduct mobile courts, the handout added.

Govt plans to strengthen consumer rights protection

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=124895&date=2011-02-03

Govt plans to strengthen consumer rights protection
Talha Bin Habib

The government has planned to strengthen the functions of the Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection (DNCRP), officials said.

As part of the plan, there will be offices of DNCRP in all districts to protect the rights of the consumers.

To this end, initially, the ministry of finance has already given approval for 233 posts of the department.

“DNCRP started functioning last year. We have taken a move to set up our offices at the district level so that unscrupulous traders cannot violate consumers rights,” Md Abul Hossain Mian, additional secretary and director general (DG) of DNCRP, told the FE.

Asked when the district offices of his organisation could start their functions, he said, “We hope they will start in near future once the government decision on determining the required manpower is finalised and subsequent completion of appointments”.

About the function of his organisaiton he said, the main function of the DNCRP is to stem unscrupulous traders for not selling date expired and spurious commodities that kept in packet to the customers.

He said if any consumer feels cheated and deprived by unscrupulous trader then he/ she could lodge complain to the authority of DNCRP.

“The DNCRP fights for the protection of the consumers’ rights after filling the law suit by the deprived customer. If the court gives order for giving financial compensation to the ‘deprived and aggrieved’ consumers then they could get a considerable portion of fined money”.

He said the officials of DNCRP, in their on going raids to different shops and markets in the capital have realised notable amount of taka from the unscrupulous traders.

Earlier the government has formed National Consumers Rights Protection Council (NCRPC). The commerce minister is the chairman of the council.

The function of the NCRPC is to monitor the activities of the DNCRP. It will also provide necessary policy supports and guidelines to the DNCRP.

Representatives of different chamber bodies such as FBCCI, BSTI, CAB, are also the members of the NCRPC.

BSTI set to gear up operation in Sylhet

http://www.newagebd.com/2010/nov/24/met.html#1

BSTI set to gear up operation in Sylhet
Staff Correspondent . Sylhet

The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution is going to expedite its operation in Sylhet by installing specialised equipment to ensure quality of products in the local markets. Necessary equipment to detect the quality of different marketing products has been bought, sources in the BSTI divisional office said.

They said a three-storey building has already been constructed at its own ground of Khadimnagar in the city and necessary equipment, including chemical, physical and metrological testing machines, have been bought at a cost of Tk 10 crore under a development project.

The newly built Sylhet BSTI building is scheduled to be inaugurated towards the beginning of next year. At present, its activities are running at a rented house in the city, the sources said.

They said the BSTI authorities so far have to send the samples of seized goods to its Dhaka office for confirming the quality standards and adulteration in the goods in the absence of required testing machines in Sylhet.

‘As a result, the authorities have to wait for a long time for the test results of the seized samples from Dhaka before reaching any decision about the quality of a product,’ an BSTI employee said.

He said the delay in determining the quality of a product due to lack of equipment would end once the newly bought equipment start operation in the new building.

Besides, the local production company owners also become sufferers in having BSTI approval to start production of any sort of goods for the existing lengthy system, the sources said.

Being contacted, Sylhet BSTI’s deputy director Rezaul Haque told New Age that the installation of the equipment at the newly constructed building is going on and the institute’s activities would be strengthened after inauguration of the BSTI office.

‘Sylhet divisional office of BSTI would be able to do tests of 153 goods of various kinds to determine their quality once the operation of the newly bought equipment begins,’ he added.

Competition law to be enacted by July: Faruk

http://www.newagebd.com/2010/apr/16/busi.html#3

Competition law to be enacted by July: Faruk
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha . Dhaka

The government is going to enact a full-fledged Competition Law by July this year to help ensure healthy competition and efficient pricing in the market.

A core group comprising stakeholders and director general of WTO cell of the commerce ministry is now working on drafting the law by following laws of other countries and the UNCTAD.

When enacted, the law would encounter anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position like creating entry barriers.

The commerce minister Faruk Khan on Thursday asked all involved with the process to complete draft by June saying it will be placed before the parliament in July for approval.

‘We will not formulate such an act that might impede business to grow,’ said Faruk at a discussion on Competition Law in the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) conference room in the city.

Acting commerce secretary M Golam Hossain, EPB vice-chairman Sahab Ullah, chairman of Bangladesh Tariff Commission Mozibur Rahman spoke at the discussion, joined, among others, by economists, researchers and businessmen.

Director general of WTO cell Amitava Chakrabarty gave the keynote paper on Draft Competition Act- 2010 suggesting formulation of a commission dubbed Bangladesh Competition Commission and penalty for violating rules.

Necessary rules are inevitable before enacting the Competition Law, Khan said adding that the government will not formulate any such law that hampers businesses and raises controversy.

The government will be able to disclose time-to-time information about hoarding once the law is formulated, said Faruk Khan.

Commenting on the keynote paper, professor of United International University AK Enamul Haque said the main purpose of the act should be to infuse dynamism into market economy and innovation.

Senior vice president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Shahjahan Khan said it must be clear that which agreement is cartel and which not.

In this regard, he cited the example of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which does cartel for harmonising production with price.

It needs to be determined through extensive research, which agreements are cartel, Monsur Alam, member of securities Exchange Commission said, referring to an example of shipbuilding industry.

Chief executive officer of Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute MA Taslim said the Competition Law is being formulated in line with Indian one.

Govt plans digital database to monitor prices, combat cartel

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=87345

Govt plans digital database to monitor prices, combat cartel
Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan

The government has planned to monitor prices of 50 essential commodities through a central database updated digitally in real time in an effort to embolden market surveillance and track down manipulators, officials said Saturday.

Commerce ministry officials said the database would be launched within the next four months with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and made available online.

The real time database of the items would digitally track down latest price situation in cities and all 64 districts in the country and their global rates in major commodity hubs around the world.

The move comes following repeated failures by successive governments to contain “unexplained and artificial” rises of major food and commodity prices in the market.

Due to lack of real evidences and monitoring the government has so far failed to clamp down on the members of the so-called ‘syndicate’ accused of manipulating prices at the expense of poor and middle income people.

Officials said commerce ministry is currently looking to recruit a private firm to develop the sophisticated digital database, with UNDP doing the procurement job as part of its ‘Access 2 Information (A2I)’ aided programme.

“We have already started receiving tender documents from the interested companies. Hopefully, a work order will be issued within the next 15 days”, a UNDP official said.

“We are expecting the central database system to be operational within four months after issuing the work order”, he said.

A commerce ministry official said the database would mostly monitor prices of essential food items nationwide in collaboration with web teams of offices of all 64 district commissioners.

Officials said at the end of the initial trial time of approximately six months, the database would be open to public through online so that the people have access to any information on market prices of the 50 listed commodities.

UNDP would not comment on actual operational cost of the project.

Body to frame policies on consumer rights

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=86102

Body to frame policies on consumer rights
FE Report

The government has formed a high-powered body to frame guidelines and policies to ensure consumer rights through implementing the consumer protection law.

The body titled ‘National Consumer Rights Protection Parisad’ will give instructions to field-level officials and district committees to enforce the law. It will also build public awareness on protection of consumer rights through implementing the law.

The ministry of commerce has issued a circular recently forming the 29-member body, chaired by commerce minister.

The government has formed the Parisad with public-private participation to include opinions and recommendations of all stakeholders on enforcing the law.

The Parisad will provide assistance and make recommendations to the government for improving the law and administrative direction.

The body will consider and give opinion on government’s different measures initiated for protecting consumers’ rights, the circular said.

“The body will initiate massive campaign and educational programmes to make people of consumers rights,” the circular said.

It will build public awareness on positive aspects of protection of consumers’ rights and negative sides of its violation.

The newly formed Parisad will conduct intensive research on consumers’ rights. It will monitor field-level activities of different departments, directorates and district committees on implementation of consumer protection law.

The incumbent government has passed the Consumer Protection Act-2009 in April last through Parliament incorporating provision to reduce harassment of consumers.

The act has provisions to take punitive measures including fines, seizure and imprisonment, in case of violation of consumer rights.

Considering the necessity of building public awareness and educating people on protecting their rights the government has formed the body recently, officials said.

The law will curb hoarding and market manipulations amid soaring commodity prices and a large gap between supply and demand, they said.

Govt forms consumer rights body

http://nation.ittefaq.com/issues/2009/11/25/news0444.htm

Govt forms consumer rights body
Staff Reporter

The government yesterday constituted ‘National Consumers Rights Protection Council (NCRPC), according to a circular of the Ministry of Commerce yesterday.

The NCRPC would look into the matters related with the consumers’ interest as per the ‘Consumers Rights Protection Law-2009′.

Commerce Minister Mohammad Faruk Khan will be the chairman of the 29-member of the council. Thirteen member would represent government side while fifteen non-government officials will be included into the committee, it added.

The government officials in the council are Commerce Secretary, Director General of Directorate of National Security Agency, Director General of Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute, Joint Secretary of the Industries Ministry, Joint Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, Joint Secretary of the Home Ministry, Joint Secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Chairman of Jatiya Mahila Sangstha and Additional Inspector General (IGP) of Special Branch.

President of FBCCI, President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), President of Jatiya Press Club and Habibur Rahman Siraj, secretary of Awami League on Labour Affairs, are, among those of the fifteen-member representing to the council from the non-government side.

Barua says BSTI modernisation continues

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=109749

Barua says BSTI modernisation continues

Bss, Dhaka

Industries Minister Dilip Barua said modernisation of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) is going to turn it into a well-equipped international standard organisation.

Once the BSTI, the lone state-run watchdog agency for monitoring food items and manufacturing products, is made an effective organisation by equipping it with modern apparatuses, it will help expedite the export process.

The minister was speaking at a discussion on `Tackling Climate Change through Standards’, organised by the BSTI on the occasion of the International Standard Day at its seminar room in Dhaka yesterday.

Govt mulling over ‘Competition Act’

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2009/03/05/60432.html

Govt mulling over ‘Competition Act’

FE Report

The government is considering enacting a ‘Competition Act’, aiming to help increase competitiveness among businesses so that they offer quality goods and services at fair prices.

One of the main objectives of the proposed act is that although prices and quality of various goods and services are determined by market forces, businesses have opportunity to control prices and other factors that can affect the consumers’ interest.

The enactment of new competition act along with the recently passed Consumers’ Protection Ordinance 2008 can help prevent unscrupulous business practices and promote a market-oriented economy, said the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund (BICF) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank.

Keeping this end in view, the Ministry of Commerce and the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) organised a consultation session Tuesday to discuss various aspects of the proposed Competition Act with the stakeholders concerned.

Representatives from the relevant government agencies, Board of Investment (BoI), Bangladesh Bank and trade bodies largely participated in the discussion with Commerce Secretary Feroz Ahmed in the chair.

The discussants observed that both consumers and businesses would benefit from an effective competition policy, said the BICF.

All sectors of the economy engaged in commercial activities will be covered by the proposed competition law except the sectors that are important for national security or strategic reasons for the sovereignty of the country, they said.

The speakers at the discussion expected that the new law would apply to government and private sector enterprises engaged in commercial and economic activities.

Once enacted, the law will be administered by the proposed Competition Commission of Bangladesh, they said, adding that the proposed commission was envisaged to be an independent body subject to checks and balances and accountable to the government and the people of Bangladesh.

National body for consumers’ rights protection formed

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.info/search_index.php?page=detail_news&news_id=53301

National body for consumers’ rights protection formed

Naim-Ul-Karim

The government has formed a high-powered national body for drafting rules and regulations in line with the recently promulgated ‘Consumers Right Protection Ordinance-2008′ to shield the consumers from market foul plays, officials said Sunday.

The 21-member body under the name, ‘National Consumer Right Protection Parishad (NCRPP)’, is headed by the commerce Minister. A gazette notification to this effect was published in the first week of this month.

The NCRPP was formed after President Dr Iajuddin Ahmed promulgated the much-awaited Consumer Right Protection Ordinance (CRPO)-2008.

The Ordinance — first of its kind in the history of Bangladesh — would provide the government and the consumers the ‘necessary tools’ to detect market distortions and rein in ‘abnormal price hikes’ that have long been major causes of sufferings to the consumers.

The successive governments have tried to enact laws to curb hoarding and market manipulations, but their attempts failed mainly due to opposition by the vested interest groups.

The caretaker administration stepped up its effort to formulate the consumer protection law early this year amid soaring commodity prices, caused by a global spike and speculation and hoarding by some big traders in the country.

Experts and economists then said the absence of an effective consumer protection and competition laws has allowed the big traders to manipulate the situation at the expense of millions of the country’s poor consumers.

The 21-member NCRPP includes senior officials from the ministries of commerce, agriculture, fisheries, disaster management, home affairs, energy and law, Bangladesh Police, Drug Administration, Bangladesh Rifles, civil society, Jatiya Mahila Sangstha, National Security Intelligence (NSI) and the Bangladesh Standard Testing Institution.

The Parishad also includes presidents of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceuticals Industry, the Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh and National Press Club as members with director general of the consumer protection directorate as its member secretary.

The terms of reference empowers the parishad to make its recommendation to the government’s regarding consumers welfare.

The NCPRP will also be responsible to extend cooperation to the government while the latter would formulate new law and policies for further strengthening the consumers’ right.

Nat’l consumers’ rights protection council formed

http://www.newagebd.com/2008/dec/15/nat.html#2

Nat’l consumers’ rights protection council formed
Staff Correspondent

The government has formed a 23-member National Consumers’ Rights Protection Council to monitor the enforcement of the Consumers’ Rights Protection Ordinance 2008, said an official circular issued by the commerce ministry.

The commerce minister will act as chairman of the council constituted in line with Article 5 of the ordinance, which is likely to be enacted as law by the next parliament.

The director general of the proposed National Consumers’ Rights Protection Department will be its member secretary.

The council has also been entrusted with responsibility to frame rules under the ordinance aiming to achieve its objectives and provide guidelines to the director general and relevant district committees to implement the rules.

Apart from supervising the activities of the Consumers’ Rights Protection Department and the district committees concerned, the national council will be able to take necessary steps, it deemed fit, to uphold the rights of the consumers as per law, according to its terms of reference.

Members of the council include commerce secretary, director general of National Security Intelligence, director general of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, chairman of Jatiya Mohila Sangstha, an additional inspector general of police, a director of Bangladesh Rifles, director of Directorate of Drug Administration, presidents of Bangladesh Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Bangladesh Oushadh Shilpa Samity, Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh and National Press Club, joint secretary-level officials from agriculture, industries, fisheries and livestock, food and disaster management, home affairs, energy and mineral resources and law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministries, and three representatives of civil society nominated by the government.

BSTI takes project to set up modern lab in Chittagong

http://www.newagebd.com/2008/nov/23/met.html#1

BSTI takes project to set up modern lab in Chittagong
Tushar Hayat . Chittagong

The regional office of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution here has taken up a Tk 100 crore project to install a modern laboratory to test standards of products.

BSTI sources said at the regional office, they can test only 49 out of 152 products under their supervision due to lack of equipment. They were being compelled to send the rests of items to Dhaka for testing standards.

Rezaul Karim, deputy director of BSTI in Chittagong, said Japan Bank for International Cooperation would provide funds to implement the project. ‘We have already invited tender to procure a 40 KV generator under the project.’

He said, ‘Process is on to appoint skilled manpower for the laboratory. We will start implementing the project in full swing by one month.’

A 10-storey building will be constructed at Jamboree Field in Agrabad area in the city under the project, he said, adding that they would be able to test standards of all the 152 products under the purview of BSTI on completion of the project.

‘Establishment of the laboratory will make the release of imported goods from the port faster as the importers will not have to wait for test reports from Dhaka.’

He also said that it would help protect public health from hazards of substandard and adulterated food items as they would be able take rapid measures against the perpetrators on completion of the project.

Saifuzzaman Chowdhury, president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also convener of the project, said setting up of a self-reliant laboratory at the regional office of the BSTI was an imperative to bring momentum in import business.

‘The CCCI has been demanding establishment of a modern laboratory in Chittagong for a long time,’ he said. On completion of the project, the lab would play a significant role in curtailing lead around time of vessels further at the Chittagong port, he added.

Govt to set up watchdog to oversee quality of food items

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.info/search_index.php?page=detail_news&news_id=49240

Govt to set up watchdog to oversee quality of food items

FE Report

The government will establish a regulatory body to oversee the quality of consumer foods items, said Food and Health Adviser AMM Shawkat Ali Monday.

The adviser unveiled the government’s plan at a press conference in the city on the day, adding a high powered committee comprising senior officials of the relevant ministries will be formed soon to ensure quality of food items until establishment of the body.

“The high-powered committee will also be empowered to take action against those who produce adulterated consumer foods,” he said.

Mr. Ali said a technical committee will also be formed to extend support to the committee in conducting its activities.

He said the government will require two years of time to establish the regulatory body like those in the developed countries.

Apart from this, he said, they have taken measure to enhance capacity of all government laboratories.

Replying to a question, the adviser said the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) had already conducted laboratory tests on 32 products including Cadbury chocolates.

“The reports of the tests are yet to be available,” Mr Ali added.

Besides, testing milk and milk-made foods, he said, the BSTI will conduct laboratory tests on juice items available in the market to ensure their quality.

Replying to a question, he said the government has asked its agencies to strengthen inspection of bulk powered milk at every stage of import.

Replying to another question, he said the government considering taking initiative to make the Advertisement Act-1984 time-befitting so that local and foreign companies cannot cheat the consumers by dishing out false information about their products.

bdnews24.com adds: A high-level committee would be formed in the meantime, said Shawkat. A top-level official of the health ministry will lead the committee with members from the ministries of commerce and industry, among others.

Asked about the eight banned brands of milk powder still available in the market despite a High Court (HC) order, he said: “The government has not received the court order copy in hand yet.”

“It is not possible to take any measures in this regard until we get the copy,” he said.

“However the government has started to run mobile courts to stop the sale of the banned products after the news was published in the media,” he said.

The health ministry was also campaigning to spread the message to parents that there was no alternative to breast milk, Shawkat Ali said.

“The government has limitations. We do not have an adequate system of mobile courts compared to the huge number of retail shops.”

“The products might be sold due to lack of manpower. But the government is taking rigorous measures on the matter,” the adviser said.

The HC directed the government on October 23 to take quick measures in banning the display and sale of eight foreign powder milk brands.

The government has already halted the registration procedure of Chinese brands tainted with melamine, Yashli-1, Yashli-2 and Sweet Baby.

It has also asked deputy commissioners and civil sergeants to take legal actions to seize unregistered milk powders from the market.

A taskforce with sufficient members was also formed under the commerce ministry as per the demand of the health ministry, the adviser said.

Powdered milk samples were sent to Bangkok for further tests that would be completed in three to four days, he said.

RTI given go-ahead

http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=55809

RTI given go-ahead
Shamim Ashraf

The council of advisers yesterday gave final approval to the much-awaited Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance 2008 aimed at ensuring people’s right to information.

New posts will be created in most of the government offices and non-government organisations (NGOs). Officials holding those posts will provide people with the information they seek within 20 days of receipt of applications from them, says the ordinance.

But in cases of issues concerning a person’s life and death, arrest and release from jail, the officials will have to provide primary information within 24 hours, it says.

The widely-debated law ensures people’s right to information from organisations run with public money, and the NGOs using foreign funds, Information Secretary Jamil Osman, who placed the proposal before the council of advisers, told The Daily Star last night.

The law covers government offices down to upazila level.

“The rest of the local government bodies, like union parishads, will be covered by the laws on different local bodies which have provisions for ensuring people’s access to information,” the information secretary said.

The RTI ordinance with 36 sections and a schedule of six security and intelligence agencies, which cannot be asked for information, has a list of about 20 instances of exemption from disclosure of information, an official said seeking anonymity.

The government said the new law will increase transparency and accountability, reduce corruption and establish good governance in government offices and NGOs.

Different rights and journalists forums have welcomed the government move terming final approval of the ordinance a ‘historic step’.

The advisory council gave final nod to the RTI Ordinance 2008, 94 days after it approved the ordinance in principle, at a meeting chaired by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Details of the ordinance were not available immediately. It will come into effect after the president signs it.

Under the new law, people will have to pay fees for filing application seeking information. But people living below poverty line will be able to apply in white sheets of paper without paying any fees.

A three-member Information Commission headed by a chief information commissioner will be formed to properly enforce the law and deal with complaints from the information seekers.

“One of the two commissioners will be a woman,” Syed Fahim Munaim, press secretary to the chief adviser, told reporters after the council meeting.

The Information Commission, apart from financial liberty, has been entrusted with the authority to punish or fine officials who will fail to provide primary information on life and death, arrest and release of a person from prison within 24 hours, he said.

The president will appoint the chief information commissioner and information commissioners on the basis of suggestions from a five-member selection committee.

The chief justice will nominate a judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court to head the selection committee. The Speaker will nominate two parliament members — one each from the treasury and opposition benches– while the government will nominate one from among eminent citizens.

The cabinet secretary will be the other member of the selection committee.

If any assigned official does not provide information to an information-seeker as per the law, he will have to pay Tk 50 for a day’s delay and a total fine not exceeding Tk 5,000, according to a provision of the ordinance.

The ordinance will not cover National Security Intelligence, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Military Intelligence Directorate, Special Security Force, Criminal Investigation Department of Police and Central Intelligence Cell of the National Board of Revenue.

This provision will not apply if the information concerns corruption and human rights violation.

Welcoming the government move, Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, which has been working for several years for enactment of the law, said, “It is historic. If there is anything that needs to be changed, it can be done later.”

Congratulating the government on its approval of the ordinance, Shawkat Mahmud, president of the Jatiya Press Club, also termed it a historic move.

The information secretary said 99 percent of the NGOs will be covered by the law. “We’ve tried to ensure maximum disclosure of information. If there is any lapse in the ordinance, there is always a scope to address that,” he said.

Describing implementation of the law as a crucial job, he said the main tasks include forming the information commission, creating information bank and information dissemination system at offices and training up the staff.

Against the backdrop of a longstanding demand, the caretaker government took the initiative to formulate an RTI law as part of its institutional reforms. After an eight-member government-formed body prepared a primary draft in February, opinions from different stakeholders were sought before the information ministry submitted it to the cabinet on June 18.

Govt mulls ethical society to curb graft

http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=53959

Govt mulls ethical society to curb graft
Formulating National Integrity Strategy; PM to lead ADB-financed good governance project
Julfikar Ali Manik

The government is considering introducing a ‘national integrity strategy’ (NIS) in a bid to create an ethical society to back up its drives against rampant corruption.

The government aims at achieving the goal through ‘rebuilding integrity’ in every segment of the society including public, private and political sectors.

Though the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is responsible to prosecute the corrupt, policymakers of the present government believe it’s impossible to fight graft only by ACC through prosecution, say sources involved in formulation of NIS.

“So the government has taken initiatives to formulate NIS to combat corruption through moral-based approach to complement the ACC’s functions,” says a source.

Explaining the perspective of coming up with a new idea, another source argues: “Ineffective formal control and lack of social and citizen-oriented anti-corruption accountability mechanisms have added to what could be termed a crisis of integrity.”

“This calls for a longer-term change process with a strong reform regime that would sit at the core of the good governance agenda of the government,” the source adds.

“Given the holistic nature of a national integrity strategy, its full implementation would be long-term — more like a decade than months,” observes Barrister Manzoor Hasan, director of Institute of Governance Studies (IGS), Brac University, who is involved in formulation of NIS draft through consultation with cross-sections of people in the country.

The sources say the government is formulating NIS as part of the four-year project styled “Supporting the Good Governance Program” financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The ADB is providing the government with a loan of $150 million (Tk 1,050 crore) for this project, which is likely to be increased up to $170 million, sources say. They add the donor agency also suggests that the government formulate NIS.

A draft of NIS is expected to be prepared by mid-September, said Matiar Rahman, joint secretary (committee and development) of the Cabinet Division, who is working as the co-coordinator of the Good Governance Programme.

Rahman said the ultimate goal of NIS is to strengthen integrity at the individual, institution and national levels “because the values, ethics and morals have already been distorted which we need to rebuild in every level.”

“The NIS is mainly to prevent corruption in government institutions. Our ultimate vision is to free the country from corruption. Through implementation of the strategy, we want to prevent corruption in public sectors and ensure proper service to people through public institutions.”

“We have plans to work on integrity issue from family to national level. As a result of NIS, we want to get a country free from corruption and people will get proper services from public offices,” added Rahman.

In Asia, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have such integrity strategies in different names. The Malaysian’s strategy is called ‘National Integrity Plan’, he said.

Different sources say India and Pakistan are also working to formulate such integrity strategies.

“We have examples that some countries have gained many achievements through implementation of such integrity policies,” said Barrister Manzoor Hasan.

“As integrity will increase in our society, the ordinary citizens have a greater sense of ownership. They will be able to express their views without fear. The quality of basic services — health and education — will improve,” he added.

The government has designated IGS to prepare the draft of the strategy and IGS submitted a National Framework on it to the Cabinet Division in June. The IGS on August 27 submitted another detailed document to the Cabinet Division as a process of finalising the draft.

Sources say initially it was proposed by IGS to set up a ‘national integrity institute’ by this month, which will be run under policy guidance of a high-powered National Integrity Advisory Committee (NIAC) headed by the prime minister or the chief adviser.

It was also proposed that the government would form a ‘national integrity council’ (NIC) to lead the implementation of the strategy and the government’s plan is to make NIC functional before the national elections proposed to be held in the third week of December.

But the government is not willing to set up a separate institute to implement NIS, the sources say. According to the policy guidance of NIAC, an NIS cell in the Cabinet Division headed by an additional or joint secretary will now facilitate implementation of the strategy through ministries, constitutional bodies and other institutions.

The NIS cell will facilitate formation of Ethics Committee and appointment of Ethics Focal Person in each ministry and other government institutes (those will be considered as participating agencies of NIS) headed by the secretaries of the ministries and head of the institutes.

The ethics committees will work to ensure integrity within the ministry and in other organisations or offices under the ministries in line with the national documents of NIS, which will set a minimum standard of integrity to be maintained.

Besides, these committees will make an action plan in line with NIS to implement the strategy in their offices, while Ethics Focal person will maintain liaison with NIS Cell in view of the progress of implementation.

“We cannot force people in private sectors to form such an ethics committee in their own arena, but we can request them to do so in the name of anything,” a source observes.

The sources say they are considering formation of NIAC drawing members from each participating agencies of the state institutions and non-state institutions.

The state institutions are parliament, the executive (cabinet ministers), judiciary, civil service, local government, public prosecution, Public Service Commission, ACC, the Election Commission, Ombudsmen and Comptroller and Auditor General.

Non-state institutions are family, civil society, NGOs, private sector, media and political parties.

“The state and non-state institutions are in the National Integrity System. We will decide representatives from different institutions later through discussions,” says a source.

The sources add there will be a provision that the head of the participating agencies of NIS will be members of NIAC.

“It will be an opportunity to bring all the heads of the important bodies to the same forum. Now they don’t have any scope to sit to decide anything together,” a source adds.

If this plan is implemented, NIAC led by the prime minister or the chief adviser will be formed comprising the Speaker, cabinet ministers, an elected representative from local government, attorney general, ACC and PSC chairmen, chief election commissioner, Ombudsman, Comptroller and Auditor General, and representatives from NGO, business sector, media, civil society and political parties and families.

No selection process has been chalked out yet to select a representative from family for NIAC, says a source.

A draft national framework of NIS suggests that the government consider the life-span of NIS, which could be four to 10 years, or can be extended by laws.

The sources go on to say the government already has mechanisms in the ministries and their field offices to handle grievances.

The mechanisms have been set up as part of the Good Governance Programme, which will be strengthened further when NIS comes into effect, the sources say, adding promulgation of the Right to Information Ordinance is also a part of the project which will be a key issue for implementing NIS.