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.