Drop in graft complaints to ACC raises eyebrows

The Anti-Corruption Commission has recorded a substantial drop in the number of corruption complaints in recent years though global corruption watchdogs have found corruption rising in the country.

The latest report from the Transparency International revealed that corruption increased in Bangladesh with the country sliding two steps down to the 10th position from the bottom among the 180 countries covered by the Corruption Perception Index 2023.

But the data from the ACC’s latest annual report to be made public on Sunday showed that the commission received 15,437 complaints in 2023, compared with 19,338 in 2022, 14,789 in 2021 during the Covid pandemic, 18,489 in 2020, and 21,371 in 2019.

Asked about the decrease in corruption complaints, good governance and anti-graft campaigners said that apparently it is the manifestation of people’s frustration from failing to get a remedy to the menace permeating the society. 

‘People are losing confidence in the commission as they cannot see visible action after they filed graft complaints,’ said M. Hafizuddin Khan, a retired civil servant and former adviser to the caretaker government.

Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder told New Age that the ACC is failing to meet people’s expectation, prompting disinterest to come to the anti-graft body to end their sufferings.

An analysis of the last five years of data finds that the ACC received a total of 88,105 graft allegations between 2019 and 2023, but it took only 4,750 of them into consideration to launch inquiry. But the commission did not launch any inquiry into the rest of the 70,397 graft allegations which cover 94.61 per cent of the total allegations.

The ACC filed a total of 1,868 cases in the past five years.

‘The commission cannot take into consideration all the allegations submitted as most of them fall beyond ACC jurisdiction,’ said its chairman Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah.

In a household survey on the services sectors, Transparency International Bangladesh in 2022 revealed that 70.9 per cent of people were victims of corruption, with 40.1 per cent having to pay bribes of Tk 6,636 on average to obtain services.

It also found that the law enforcement agencies topped the list of 17 service sectors surveyed as 74.4 per cent people became victims of their corruption. The passport office came in second among corrupt sectors, BRTA came in third,  judicial services fourth, health sector fifth, local government institutions sixth, land related services seventh, education eighth, electricity ninth, climate change tenth, agriculture eleventh, insurance twelfth, NGO thirteenth, gas fourteenth, banking fifteenth, and tax and customs sixteenth.

Experts said that as the people filing complaints are not getting their expected remedies, they are becoming frustrated and losing confidence in the commission.

Hafizuddin Khan also said, ‘I think corruption is rather increasing than decreasing. As people coming with complaints do not get remedies their confidence erodes, resulting in the declining number of complaints.’

TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that in the absence of relevant data, it is difficult to assess with certainty the implications of such a decline in the number of complaints from one year to another.

He, however, said that one thing is certain: this decline in the number of complaints to the ACC cannot be treated as evidence of reduced corruption.

‘On the contrary, since it has been noted that quite a large proportion of complaints remain unaddressed every year and complainants are not informed by the ACC about the fate of the complaints, the decline may be a syndrome of people’s perception that it makes no sense to complain,’ said Iftekharuzzaman.

‘To overcome this, the ACC would do well to develop a practice of regularly and systematically communicating the reasons behind complaints being unaddressed,’ he added.

According to the ACC annual report, in 2023, out of 15,437 allegations, 9,262 were submitted to the ACC headquarters, 771 were received from government offices and agencies, 308 from private departments and agencies, 1,080 from newspaper and television reports, 1,439 from divisional and district offices of the ACC, and 462 complaints were received through ACC hotline 106.

Apart from this, the commission also received 2,115 allegations from other sources, including the court, social media platforms like Facebook and emails, according to the latest annual report.

In 2023, the ACC initiated 923 new inquiries along with previous 3,505 pending ones. Of them, 1,206 inquiries were completed and 404 cases were filed and charges sheets were submitted in 363 cases in that year.

Apart from this, 12,958 allegations were sent to the departments and offices concerned for taking necessary measures.

A total of 361 cases were disposed of in 2023 in which the average conviction rate was 62.30 per cent. Currently, a total of 3,553 corruption cases are pending with the courts across the country.

News Courtesy: