Category Archives: Anti-Corruption

One-stop centre makes BSTI active, effective

One-stop centre makes BSTI active, effective
Raihan Sabuktagin

The one-stop centre established by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) at Tejgaon has significantly reduced corruption and hassle of customers in getting services from the institution, claim BSTI officials.

Before establishing the centre, customers had to move to different tables for collecting certification marks, licences or test results of their products. Now they are getting services from one single centre, said Azmal Hossain, director general of BSTI.

“This has sped up activities in providing services and reduced corruption,” he said.

Azmal said working environment inside BSTI office was badly hampered by the crowd of traders that prompted BSTI to set up the centre preventing unwanted meetings between the officials and customers.

He said easy access of traders inside labs and other sections of BSTI had created obstacle to activities of the officials and opened up chances to influence BSTI officials in getting licences through corruption. But after setting up the one-stop centre customers cannot enter inside the sections and meet officials directly.

Habibur Rab Majumder, a deputy director of BSTI and chief of the one- stop centre, said the centre is providing service to at least 250 customers daily.

A Citizen Charter is hung at the centre that shows how much time the authorities would need to provide a particular service.

Customers now getting service in time and if their products fail to attain BSTI standard they are informed about the reasons as soon as possible.

The centre has a media cell where journalists and others can get information on different issues on the BSTI services and monitoring.

The BSTI officials said the institution is facing a huge workload and shortage of manpower that hampers activities of quality checking, standard monitoring, leveling of the products and drive against unscrupulous traders.

“For providing smooth service to the people, we need modern technology as well as institutional strength and all these things are very important for ensuring consumer rights in the country,” said Habibur.

Customers also appreciated the service of the one-stop centre as it reduced their hassle in collecting licences and approvals from BSTI.

Sanjoy Bose, production manager of ISIS Foods Bangladesh said after establishing the centre getting certification has become easier now.

“In the past, I had to move at least 4/5 tables for getting the license for new products but this time I submitted my products here and got result within the time mentioned at the Citizen Charter,” he said.

Sanjoy applied for a ‘no objection certificate’ for his product and he is expecting result of his application within next three days from the one-stop centre.”

ACC recommendations by this month to curb institutional graft

ACC recommendations by this month to curb institutional graft
Unb, Dhaka

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will formulate its recommendations this month aimed at preventing corruption in the ministries.

ACC Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Hasan Mashhud Chowdury said this while talking to reporters after a meeting at the Secretariat with senior officials of the Local Government Division and its departments.

As part of its campaign to curb institutional corruption, the ACC held the meeting to find out the causes of corruption in the Local Government Division. Earlier, the commission also held meetings with the officials of the land ministry.

The ACC will hold such meetings with two more ministries this month before finalising the recommendations.

Lt Gen (retd) Mashhud said the commission would also hold meetings with government hierarchies about implementation of the recommendations.

He said the Local Government Division has been requested to open a cell to receive corruption-related allegations. The issue of opening such cell in every ministry will be included in the ACC recommendations.

During the meeting, the ACC chairman urged the Local Government Division officials to take initiatives to stop such corruption that could be stopped forthwith. He also called for intensifying high-level monitoring to stop all kinds of corruption.

ACC Commissioners Habibur Rahman and Abul Hasan Manjur Mannan, Local Government Division Secretary Sheikh Khurshid Alam and other senior officials attended the meeting.

The anti-graft watchdog will soon hold meetings with the ministries of health and communication.

Local Govt Commission formed

Local Govt Commission formed
Unb, Dhaka

A three-member Local Government Commission (LGC) headed by former secretary Fayzur Razzak has been constituted, officials said yesterday.

President Iajuddin Ahmed yesterday signed the papers relating to the appointment of chairman and members of the commission, Secretary of the President’s office Md Sirajul Islam told the news agency.

He said Fayzur Razzak has been appointed chairman, while former secretary Hedayetul Islam Chowdhury and former professor of Chittagong University Tofail Ahmed have been made members of the commission for a three-year term.

In May this year, the president approved the Local Government Commission Ordinance 2008.

The Local Government Commission will be an independent body, which will function independently in the jurisdiction of the constitution and the ordinance.

All the local government institutions across the country, which were under the direct control of the Ministry of LGRD and Cooperative, will come under the supervision of the commission. It will also have the power of a court under the Code of Civil Procedure to summon anyone before it.

The LGC will have the authority to investigate alleged financial and administrative irregularities in the local government bodies and to ask the government to take actions against the accused officials and others.

ACC wants to change the system that breeds graft: Mashhud

ACC wants to change the system that breeds graft: Mashhud
First of a series of meetings held with land ministry’s officials
Staff Correspondent

The Anti-Corruption Commission has held the first of a series of dialogues with top government officials to seek their help to identify the ways and means of checking corruption in public offices.

‘We want to shatter the system that breeds corruption,’ Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, chairman of the ACC, told reporters after his maiden meeting with senior officials at the land ministry on Sunday
‘Many important suggestions were made to tackle corruption in the public offices and we will base our course of action on those suggestions,’ added the ACC’s chief after the meeting in the land ministry’s conference room.

The anti-graft body earlier wrote to the government to seek its approval to hold a series of meetings with top officials of the ministries as part of its campaign against corruption.

Initially it selected four ministries — land, local government, rural development and cooperatives, health and family welfare, and communications — to hold talks with their officials.

Participants of the maiden meeting observed that the erroneous land management under the outdated legal system have made the land ministry offices throughout the country hotbeds of corruption. The ACC will sit again with the land ministry’s officials after 15 days at the ACC’s office.

The meeting suggested reforms of the laws on land and land management, digitalisation of record keeping to replace the existing manual system, enhancement of the salaries of the officials and employees and change in the mindset of the officials, along with quite a few other suggestions.

Mashhud said that he has been trying to make people take part in the campaign against corruption. ‘I wanted the officials’ assistance, and they duly extended their cooperation,’ he said, adding that a number of issues were discussed at the meeting.

The ACC will decide its course of action once the suggestions are scrutinised and accepted, he said, and vowed to work together to eliminate corruption from the society.

When he was asked whether the meeting focused on punishment of the corrupt officials and employees in the land ministry, Hasan Mashhud said that punishment was not the only way to eliminate corruption. Eradication of corruption needs a ‘social movement’.

‘We are not looking for individuals right now; we are pursuing something bigger, which is to change the system,’ added the ACC’s chief. He emphasised the need for law reforms and digitalisation of record keeping for proper land management.

The aim of the dialogues is to remove institutional corruption, not petty graft, he told reporters.

We first want to identify the reasons for, and methods of, corruption,’ he said, adding that the ACC is discussing a certain plan to curb corruption which will be implemented in the long run.

The land ministry’s secretary, Abu Mohammad Moniruzzaman, assured Mashhud that his office would extend every support possible in the campaign against corruption.

The meeting was attended by ACC’s officials, Abul Hasan Manzur Mannan, the chairman of the Land Reforms Commission, and Manirul Islam, along with others.

They shared their experiences and exchanged information on corruption in the land ministry. The meeting was told that 1.4 million cases on land disputes are pending in the country’s courts right now.

Govt initiates computerised ACR system

Govt initiates computerised ACR system
Mustafizur Rahman

The interim administration is working to replace the old, manual management of annual confidential reports of government officials with a computerised system aimed at curbing irregularities and ensuring more transparency in the promotion process.

Once the system goes computerised, each of the officials will be able to see the scores in the annual confidential reports using passwords, said a senior official at the establishment ministry, which keeps the confidential documents.

Against the backdrop of widespread allegations of irregularities in promotion and tampering with annual confidential reports, the government is working on the computerised personal appraisal method to replace the present manual system for performance evaluation of public servants, officials said.

‘We are developing the software for the maintenance of the annual confidential reports…. It will help us to keep the reports in a transparent way so that officials, no matter where they are posted to, will be able to see their records,’ the establishment secretary, Md Mosleh Uddin, told New Age on Wednesday.

He said the official would have individual passwords to access their records to be made available online.

The secretary said the ministry was working also to modernise the evaluation system. ‘The government is actively considering introduction of the personal appraisal method to make the evaluation system more transparent.’

The annual confidential report section of the ministry is frequented by officials but the section does not properly record the visits.

‘About 10 to 15 officials come here every working day to visit officials in the section…. We just keep the visitor’s name and entry time,’ said a constable standing guard at the gate of the section.

The present system was criticised after some incidents of ACR tampering had come to light and show-cause notices were issued to several government officials for their suspected involvement in the illegal practice towards end of the immediate-past BNP-led alliance government which handed over power to the caretaker government in October 2006.

The BNP-led government started reviewing the evaluation process in the public administration of developed countries to modernise the system of annual confidential reports.

A ‘powerful syndicate’ routinely used to manipulate the promotion process as well as the ACR preparation,’ a high government official told New Age.

‘The present system also does not reflect the actual performance of a civil servant as many junior officials spend a significant portion of their working hours trying to please their superiors for favourable reports at year-end,’ he said.

In 2005, an investigation into such irregularities found annual reports were tampered with in different ways. In some cases, scores given by senior officers were changed, some reports with bad scores were ‘taken away’ altogether, while some reports were forged.

RTI given go-ahead

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

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.

Local govt commission to be set up soon

Local govt commission to be set up soon
Staff Correspondent

The caretaker government has moved to form the much-anticipated Local Government Commission (LGC), in an effort to free local government administrations from absolute subjugation to central government’s whims.

“We have started the process of forming the commission and hope it will be formed as soon as possible,” LGRD Adviser Anwarul Iqbal told The Daily Star yesterday.

He said his ministry is now looking for an office for the LGC.

President Iajuddin Ahmed on May 11 promulgated an ordinance regarding formation of the LGC with provisions designed to strengthen local government institutions, and to make them dynamic and accountable to the people.

The new law empowers the commission to draw up recommendations for strengthening the local government system. It also allows the commission to probe alleged financial and administrative irregularities in the system, and to ask the central government to take actions against the accused.

Formation of an LGC was being discussed since 1992, but no elected partisan government since then initiated any step to form the commission.

Rather, successive elected governments in the last 15 years slapped numerous unwarranted restrictions on local government administrations by issuing frequent orders and directives.

Against such a backdrop, the current military backed caretaker government made its move to strengthen the local government system in an effort to ensure proper decentralisation of power.

The caretaker government already incorporated provisions in newly promulgated laws governing city corporations and municipalities that limit the central government’s supervisory power over those local government administrations.

According to those laws, the LGRD ministry, which is the custodian of the local government system, will have to consult with the LGC before issuing any instruction or before formulating rules regarding functions of city corporations and municipalities.

The laws also stipulate that the central government will have to consult with the LGC for establishing new city corporations or municipalities, and for re-demarcating the jurisdictions of the existing ones.

Without prior consultation with the LGC, the central government may not remove any mayor or councillor of city corporations or municipalities even on grounds of negligence in duty or moral turpitude, the new laws say.

Sources in the LGRD ministry said the same provisions might also be incorporated in the fresh laws being prepared for union, upazila and zila parishads.

The new law on formation of LGC stipulates that persons having experience in public administration, particularly in the local government system, public funds, and accounts, will be appointed as chairmen and members of the commission.

The president will appoint for a three-year term the chairman and two members of the commission from a panel of nominees forwarded by a selection committee.

The commission will be independent in exercising its power. Any member of the commission shall not be removed from the office in manners and on grounds other than those followed to remove a Supreme Court judge, the law says.

The LGC may exercise the power of a court to summon anyone before it to give statements, and may also ask for records and documents held by any individual or institution.

Efficient management cuts business costs at Ctg port

Efficient management cuts business costs at Ctg port
Jasim Uddin Khan

File photo shows cargo being unloaded at Chittagong port. Strict vigilance and improved management reduced the business costs at the port in 2007.

Strict vigilance and efficient management reduced the business costs at Chittagong port in 2007.

The move also helped raise exports and improve the lead-time, businessmen said.

According to available data, importers previously had to pay Tk 30,000 on an average for per less than container load (LCL) and Tk 20,000 for per full container load (FCL) TEUs at the port.

LCL is a shipment that is not large enough to fill a standard cargo container and FCL is large enough to fill that cargo container.

“Now the importers need to pay only Tk 2,900 for both the LCL and FCL, of which Tk 1,500 is being paid to freight forwarders and Tk 1,408 for port landing charge,” said Mahbub Chowdhury, director, Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Chowdhury said the shipping agents, freight forwarders and port and customs officials used to take away the additional charges without any legal ground.

Vested quarters stopped taking those additional charges with the introduction of some rules and regulations after the present caretaker government assumed power, he claimed.

The exporters had to pay Tk 13,000 as freight charges besides bribing port and customs officials and paying charges to the inland container depot.

“Now traders have to pay only Tk 600 as stamp duty instead of Tk 13,000,” Chowdhury said.

President of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Anwar Ul Alam Chowdhury Parvez termed the current situation at the port as very positive, which has made the local exporters more competitive than ever before.

“We are paying no additional charges at the port,” the BGMEA chief said.

“Bangladeshi exporters are getting more orders from buyers due to this competitive edge,” he added.

Abdus Salam Murshedi, a director of the BGMEA, said import is an essential component for the country’s export trade

“A huge fall in overall cost has contributed much in increasing Bangladesh’s export,” Murshedi said.

The lead-time was a great hurdle, according to businesses. They said earlier it took 32 days to 35 days to reach a consignment to Europe from Bangladesh. Now the lead-time hovers between 25 days to 28 days, they said.

“Waiting time at outer anchorage to berth a vessel also reduced significantly at 5 days from previous 11 days,” Fazlul Hoque, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said.

He said the timely customs clearance and efficient management of container also improved the situation.

Due to the changed scenario and the improvement in competitiveness, the country’s export grew an impressive 21.25 per cent in March to reach the first nine months exports over US$ 10 billion amid more shipments of key garment items.

“Our exports continued to maintain a double digit growth. Both knitwear and woven items have done exceedingly well,” said Shafyat Sohel, a garment exporter.

The traders now suggest immediate introduction of container scanning system at Chittagong Port.

Presently, a USA bound ship loaded with Bangladeshi products requires a 10-11-day waiting at any USA port for security checkup. “If the Bangladesh government introduces a scanner, security check-up at the USA and EU ports will be minimum,” he added.

First dividends of separated judiciary

First dividends of separated judiciary
Salutary impact in lower courts

THERE has been much discussion and debate as to the impact in the higher courts of the long-awaited separation of the judicial branch from the executive branch, but we are pleased to note that in the operation and functioning of the lower courts there can be no question that the measure has been a resounding success.

We are gratified to learn from the Supreme Court registrar that the lower courts have been able to expeditiously dispose of over 3 lakh cases in the six months since the lower judiciary was made independent of political control.

Of course, this is not enough, and over six lakh cases remain pending as well as over two and a half lakh more in the higher courts, but it is a good start and the kind of improvement that the nation hoped to see when the independence of the judiciary had been a burning priority.

Let us hope that in the coming six months a large proportion of the remaining back-log of cases are also disposed of with similar efficiency and that justice can continue to be delivered swiftly, smoothly, and equitably.

It is reported that there are still 168 posts of judges that remain vacant and we trust and hope that they will be filled up quickly in order to help deal with the remaining backlog of cases. It is understood that, in addition, 390 new assistant judges will be appointed this month to help address the backlog.

These are all heartening measures and we cannot stress enough how crucial it is for the nation that the courts continue in the direction of greater efficiency and impartiality. There is no more fundamental right than the right to justice.

For too long the everyday citizens of the country suffered due to the politicisation of the judiciary which meant that for those not well connected or wealthy enough that there was no recourse to justice when they had been wronged.

We applaud the fact that the Bangladeshi people are now getting greater access to justice and urge the concerned authorities to ensure that the delivery of justice only gets better.

Tax collection exceeds target due to pragmatic steps

Tax collection exceeds target due to pragmatic steps

DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 10 (BSS) – The revenue collection has increased by 74.11 per cent in northern tax zone exceeding the target during the nine months of the current fiscal following some pragmatic measures of the National Board of Revenue (NBR).

The collection of the revenue was recorded at Taka 911 crore till March this year that exceeded the target of Taka 856 crore during the current fiscal year 2007-08.

A revenue friendly atmosphere created by the government and the recent NBR measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the administration helped the revenue officials to attain this impressive performance.

Talking to BSS Md Enayet Hossain, Commissioner of Dhaka (north) Tax zone said he expect at least Taka 200 to 250 crore additional tax might be realized during the fiscal as more progressive steps have already been taken to increase the tax collection in the region.

“Once this growth was out of imagine. Now situation has changed and our friendly approach is being welcomed by the tax payers”, Hossain said adding the other tax zones also experienced impressive growth in tax collection during the period.

The northern tax zone includes Gazipur, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Tangail, Jamalpur, Manikganj, Kishorganj, Sherpur and northern part of Dhaka districts. In this zone, the total revenue collection was recorded at Taka 723 crore during the last fiscal.

“Our officials are now more sincere to their duties under the dynamic guidelines of Nation Board of Revenue (NBR) which helped us to realise additional revenue this year and exceed the target”, said Enayet Hossain.

The main responsibility of NBR is to mobilize domestic resources through collection of import duties and taxes, VAT and income tax for the government. Side by side with collection of taxes, facilitation of international trade through quick clearance of import and export cargoes has also emerged as a key role of NBR.

Enayet Hossain said the NBR is chalking out some plans to realize tax from banks through money card which will help us to raise more taxes shortly.

“If tax payers can pay their taxes through their money cards, then the amount of tax realization might be double. Because it will reduce hassles, time and many other problems relating to tax payments’, he said.

Bangladesh, tax revenue constitutes a major portion of the total internal resource. Tax revenue comprises of Income tax, customs duty, value added tax (VAT), excise duty, supplementary duty (SD), infrastructure development surcharge (IDSC), and travel tax.

BSTI licence renewal soars amid drive against malpractice

BSTI licence renewal soars amid drive against malpractice

87,02,026 products, services get licences renewed in 7 months against only 2,026 last fiscal
Jasim Uddin Khan

The number products and services licence renewal from standards authorities soared in seven months of the current fiscal year with the government agencies launching drives against business irregularities and food adulteration.

A total of 87,02,026 products and services got their licences renewed from Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) until January of 2007-08 against only 2,026 last fiscal year.

All products and services are required to renew their licences from the BSTI, the state agency that works under the Ministry of Industries.

Rafiqul Islam, an inspector of BSTI, said the unusual rise in licence renewal is the result of mobile courts that have been in operations for the last one year.

“Previously a few teams used to check BSTI certification. But now many mobile teams are in operations, forcing businesses to became more BSTI complaint,” Rafiqul added.

A total of 511,645 surveillance or mobile teams operated during the first seven months of the current fiscal against only 645 teams in the previous fiscal.

BSTI also refused record 378,973 applications that sought new licence this fiscal until January. In the previous fiscal, only 973 licences were refused.

Moreover, vigilance teams filed a total of 124,11,426 cases during the period against only 1426 cases during the previous fiscal.

Industries ministry sources said the government is going to expand the BSTI capacity to match with the growing volume of activities.

“It is now going to be impossible to perform the duties with existing capacity as work volume has increased tremendously,” another official said.

The government is working to strengthen offices outside Dhaka for meaningful decentralization so that the regional offices can function effectively, he added

The BSTI officials also feel some laws need to be amended to protect consumers’ rights.

“Some businessmen are still trying to cheat consumers to escape the existing laws when it comes to maintaining quality and standards of products,” said a consumer rights expert.

Anti-corruption drive to be widened: Mashhud

Anti-corruption drive to be widened: Mashhud
Staff Correspondent

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury yesterday said the ongoing anti-corruption drive will be widened, tougher and long-term.

“The ongoing drive against corruption will be firm, widened and long- term and to win the battle people from all walks of life will have to take part in it,” said Mashhud while speaking as chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of a website.

Concern for Environmental Development And Research (CEDAR), a non-government organisation, launched the website at the National Press Club in the capital.

Inaugurating the website, the ACC boss said, “We would be able to make our stand against corruption more firm by using more modern technology.”

“Using the technology we would be able to reach many people and take their opinions regarding corruption,” he said, adding the website, as a raw material, will help project the corruption picture of the country.

Welcoming the effort, Mashhud said the ACC will visit the website regularly.

Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said incorporation of general people is a must to make the movement against corruption a success and durable.

It is not possible for a single institution to curb corruption, and corruption will be rooted out from the society if the organisations ensure transparency and accountability, he said.

Dr Iftekharuzzaman called for incorporating the young generation into the movement as their ideas are important to stamp out corruption.

He hoped that many organisations will come forward with their efforts like CEDAR.

Praising the effort, Mosharraf Hossain Khan, deputy managing director of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), said awareness about corruption will be raised among the mass people if the anti-corruption activities and programmes are put in the website.

He said everyone will have to declare war against corruption as only few institutions cannot eradicate corruption from the country.

He suggested CEDAR to put the corruption-related information carefully in the website so that innocent people are not harassed.

Mosharraf said allegations were raised against the activities of many non-government organisations recently, but these have been stopped now.

To establish a corruption-free society the alleged corruptions of NGOs should be followed up, he added.

Shafiqul Alam, executive director of CEDAR, said the aim of launching the website is to create social awareness against corruption.

He said the website has a provision for anyone to put their opinion on the ways to stop corruption and people would also be able to affirm their personal commitment against corruption.

Aroma Dutta, executive director of PRIP Trust, and Kazi Sher Mohammad, president of CEDAR, also spoke on the occasion.

Scotland Yard helping ACC to bring back siphoned off money

Scotland Yard helping ACC to bring back siphoned off money

Staff Correspondent

British Metropolitan Police Service Scotland Yard is helping Bangladesh government and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in bringing back the siphoned off money to the country, outgoing British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury said yesterday.

“Wherever there is corruption, we will stand and help people to fight that issue,” he told the press after a farewell visit to the ACC chairman and commissioners yesterday.

“Therefore, it is very natural for us to cooperate with Bangladesh government and the Anti-Corruption Commission…Scotland Yard is cooperating with the Anti-Corruption Commission on these cases,” he said.

Replying to a question regarding the cooperation from Scotland Yard, Choudhury said, “They are cooperating so that the money can be returned to Bangladesh. They are working official-to-official level.”

He said, “We are cooperating in terms of policy. The UK government has stated that we will fight corruption throughout the world that includes our own country.”

Replying to another question on human rights, he said there must be transparency when people are being arrested and charged.

“There must be due process and transparency in the case,” he said, adding that the prosecution must be without difference and discrimination.

Praising ACC activities, Choudhury said the ACC is certainly very different from the one that existed before and seems to be very dynamic.

Referring to the transformation of the ACC, the British high commissioner said the DFID provided money for the transformation.

Anwar Chowdhury will leave Dhaka soon after completion of his four-year term in Dhaka.