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The Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) has been in the headlines recently. It is at the centre of the row between the government and the World Bank. The threshold for tolerance towards corruption has decreased sharply around the world and in Bangladesh, too, there is an increasing aversion to corruption among the public.
Mindful of the caustic effect of corruption in a civil society, the Government of Bangladesh created the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) through an act promulgated on February 23, 2004 that came into force on May 9, 2004. Sadly, however, every civilian government since its transformation into a commission has tried to make a mockery of ACC’s noble mission and vision of a corruption-free Bangladesh by weakening it as so brilliantly articulated by none other than its chief, Mr. Golam Rahman, who complained that the government measures are aimed at making the ACC a ‘toothless tiger’.
The ACC chief’s helplessness was evident at a seminar held at the ACC premises recently where Mr Rahman said that political parties promise to fight corruption in their election manifesto but after coming to power, don’t pay attention to the commitments. Taking a cue from the ACC chief, we can say that every government from 1991 onwards made ‘zero-tolerance’ commitments towards corruption, but the rot has progressively worsened in the last 21 years.
It is clear that lip service to reform is no longer enough. We cannot fight corruption without strengthening the institutional capacity of the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) and forming a unique bench to settle the graft cases speedily.
A draft law has been formulated to strengthen the ACC. There is a lot of criticism that the law clips the wings of the ACC. But even that is not being ratified in parliament. We urge the government to pass the ACC law by modifying and strengthening it. This law must provide the ACC with powers such as instigating and pursuing criminal investigations in corruption offences. Furthermore, the ACC must also be mandated with raising awareness on issues related to anti-corruption.
Our inability to stand up to corruption is percolating beyond our national boundaries and affecting our global reputation. The time to act is now.
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