Urgent need for a combined drive against corruption in Bangladesh

National Board of Revenue, Anti-Corruption Commission, ACC, Corruption

The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has taken actions against two of its high-ranking officials amid allegations of massive corruption. The transfer of Kazi Abu Mahmud Faisal, a first secretary at NBR, to Bogra, and the mysterious disappearance of Matiur Rahman, a recent former member of NBR, have highlighted the pressing need for a coordinated effort involving all concerned departments to effectively combat corruption in Bangladesh.

Kazi Abu Mahmud Faisal’s transfer was precipitated by allegations that he had amassed substantial wealth through corrupt practices, both in his name and in the names of his relatives. The tax administration branch issued Faisal’s transfer order following an intensive investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). The ACC’s preliminary search uncovered significant illegal assets attributed to Faisal and his relatives, leading to a court-approved seizure and freezing of these assets.

Media reports on Faisal’s corruption sparked widespread public outrage, prompting the swift issuance of his transfer order. However, reports indicate that Faisal did not report for work at the revenue building in Agargaon the following Sunday, with his senior officer, Nazmul Karim, stating that Faisal was on casual leave.

In a more perplexing development, Matiur Rahman, a former member of NBR, has gone into hiding, leaving no trace of his whereabouts. An order issued on Sunday transferred him to the Internal Resources Department of the Finance Ministry, but Matiur has not reported to his new position. His disappearance has raised significant concerns, especially in light of the allegations of corruption against him.

The ACC has intensified its efforts by requesting information about land owned by Matiur’s family from land offices across the country. Additionally, Matiur’s first wife, Laila Kaniz Lucky, has applied for the withdrawal of a court-imposed travel ban, suggesting attempts to influence the investigation and evade accountability.

The behavior of Mahmud Faisal and Matiur Rahman raises critical questions about the effectiveness of existing legal and administrative measures in combating corruption. According to the Government Servants (Regular Attendance) Rules, 2019, no government servant should be absent from duty without prior permission from the competent authority. In cases of unauthorized absence, the authority can deduct an amount equal to one day’s basic pay for each day of absence after issuing a show-cause notice.

Despite these provisions, no action has been taken against Matiur Rahman for his absence, fueling speculation and criticism on social media. Many are questioning whether these transfers are genuine punitive measures or merely superficial actions to placate public outrage.

The ACC has played a crucial role in investigating and exposing the corrupt practices of Mahmud Faisal and Matiur Rahman. Following media disclosures, the ACC’s proactive measures have included applying for asset seizures and travel bans, highlighting the need for an independent and robust anti-corruption body. However, the ACC’s efforts must be complemented by the active involvement and support of other governmental departments to ensure comprehensive action against corruption.

Experts and commentators stress the critical need for a coordinated operation involving all relevant departments to effectively combat corruption. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent declaration of war against corruption must be translated into a concerted effort by the administration, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence services. The current fragmented and reactive approach highlights the necessity for a more strategic and integrated response.

The government’s delay in taking immediate action allows corrupt officials the opportunity to flee or manipulate the system to their advantage. A combined operation would ensure a swift and decisive response, preventing such officials from evading justice. Furthermore, a unified approach would reinforce the government’s zero-tolerance policy against corruption, sending a clear message that malpractices will not be tolerated at any level.

For Bangladesh to realize its vision of becoming ‘Sonar Bangla,’ as envisioned by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, it is imperative to eradicate corruption comprehensively. This goal requires not just stringent rules and regulations but their effective enforcement. The administration must take ownership of anti-corruption efforts, ensuring that actions against corrupt officials are timely, decisive, and transparent.

Under the supervision of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a combined operation involving the ACC, law enforcement agencies, intelligence services, and all relevant departments should be initiated. This operation should focus on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting corrupt officials, ensuring that they face the full force of the law. Additionally, there should be a mechanism for continuous monitoring and evaluation to prevent the recurrence of corrupt practices.

To effectively combat corruption, it is essential to address the systemic issues that enable such practices. This includes strengthening internal controls within government agencies, improving transparency in financial transactions, and fostering a culture of accountability. By enhancing the capacity of oversight institutions and ensuring that they operate independently, the government can create a more robust framework for preventing and detecting corruption.

Moreover, public awareness and engagement are crucial in the fight against corruption. Encouraging citizens to report corrupt activities and protecting whistleblowers can significantly enhance the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures. The media also plays a vital role in uncovering and reporting corruption, and its independence should be safeguarded to ensure continued vigilance.

The cases of Kazi Abu Mahmud Faisal and Matiur Rahman serve as stark reminders of the pervasive corruption within governmental institutions. While the ACC’s efforts are commendable, they must be supported by a coordinated and combined operation involving all relevant departments. Only through a unified approach can the government effectively combat corruption, uphold the rule of law, and foster an environment of transparency and accountability.

The ultimate goal is to present Bangladesh as a model of good governance and development on the global stage, fulfilling the aspirations of its people and honoring the legacy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. By taking decisive action against corruption, the government can ensure that the nation’s ongoing development is sustained and that its future is secured.

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