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Say No To Corruption – By Laiba Ali

Laiba Ali
Freelance Writer

Images Credits:
Dhaka Tribune

Say No To Corruption
भ्रष्टाचार को ना कहें
بدعُنوائی کو مُسترد کرو

Bribery and Corruption in Bangladesh

“The evil of corruption reaches into every corner of the world. It lies at the heart of the most urgent problems we face — from economic uncertainty, to endemic poverty, to the ever-present threat of radicalization and extremism.”
“Corruption in the form of bribery and misuse of public funds is a major obstacle to democracy and economic development in many of the world’s poor countries.”
“Without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built. And if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain. “
“Integrity, transparency and the fight against corruption have to be part of the culture. They have to be taught as fundamental values.”

Corruption in Bangladesh has been a continuing problem. According to all major ranking institutions, Bangladesh routinely finds itself among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Corruption has always been a major concern for Bangladesh as it directly affects the economy and development of the country. Bangladesh has been trying its best to prevent corruption by implementing various stringent laws and has certainly been successful in minimizing the level of corruption in the past few years. An allegation of bribery or corruption is one of the fastest ways a company can tarnish its reputation. Whilst corporations doing business in Bangladesh have their own Anti-bribery and Corruption policies and compliance programs, an appraisal of anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws of Bangladesh is of utmost importance for any corporation doing business in Bangladesh. This writing is aimed at giving a birds’ eye view of the laws and regulatory framework in place in the jurisdiction of Bangladesh.

Corruption is a parasite that feeds on the resources of a society and drains it of its strength.  It can devastate every level of business and government.

Around 70.9% of Bangladesh households have had to pay bribes to get government services in various sectors, said a household survey of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Wednesday.

The survey, titled “Corruption in Service Sectors: National Household Survey 2021”, also revealed that the law enforcement agencies are the most corrupt service sector (74.4%) followed by the Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP) (70.5%) and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) (68.3%).

Other most corrupt services sectors include the judiciary (56.8%), health (48.75), local government institutions (46.6%) and land services (46.3%).

The survey report said the country’s overall bribery rate is 40.1%, with the top three sectors receiving bribes being passports, law enforcement agencies and BRTA.

Up to 72.1% of the victims of bribery mentioned “service not available without bribery” as the reason for paying bribes, which means that bribery continues to be institutionalized. Every household, on average, has to pay a bribe of Tk6,636 annually and the three most bribe-taking sectors are insurance, judiciary and gas services, said the report. The survey revealed that an amount of Tk10,830 crore was exchanged as bribes in the services sector during the survey period, from December 2020 to November 2021, which was 0.4% of the country’s GDP in the fiscal year 2020-21 and 5.9% of the revised budget of the same financial year. TIB has conducted nine National Household Surveys since 1997.

Bangladesh still languishes among world’s most corrupt countries

According to the survey, the rate of corruption in the service sectors has increased compared to 2017. In 2021, while the rate of corruption in the same sectors was found to be 70.8%, in 2017 this rate was 66.5%.  Compared to 2017, the rate of bribes or unauthorized payments decreased in 2021 but the amount of bribes increased.

Due to the government’s digitization process, corruption in some sectors remains the same (law enforcement agencies, passport, BRTA, etc) and has increased in some sectors (local government institutions, NGOs, insurance, etc).  In addition, compared to 2017, the rate of bribery increased in some sectors (local government institutions) and decreased in some sectors (agriculture, education and health) in 2021. The survey shows that in 2021, incidents of bribery in the service sectors was higher in rural areas than in urban areas (36.6% vs. 46.5%).

“The corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst.” 

The burden of corruption is higher on low-income households than on high-income households. Low-income households are forced to pay a higher proportion of their annual income in bribes than high-income households in order to receive services. The survey result also shows that female service recipients were victims of corruption more than male service recipients in some sectors (health, local government institutions and other sectors). On the other hand, male service recipients were victims of corruption more than women in certain sectors (education, public services). In addition, service recipients aged 36 and above are relatively more victims of corruption compared to service recipients below 35 years.

Business bribery risk: Bangladesh ranks 2nd in South Asia, despite progress

According to all major ranking institutions, Bangladesh routinely finds itself among the most corrupt countries in the world. Companies should, therefore, beware of high corruption risks when operating or investing in Bangladesh. Corruption is pervasive at all levels of society and companies have reported being subjected to costly and unnecessary license and permit requirements. The Code of Criminal Procedure, the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Penal Code, and the Money Laundering Prevention Act criminalize attempted corruption, extortion, active and passive bribery, bribery of foreign public officials, money laundering and using public resources or confidential state information for private gain. Nevertheless, anti-corruption legislation is inadequately enforced. Facilitation payments and gifts are illegal, but common in practice. Bribery, misappropriation of funds, excessive lobbying, delays in performing services, pilferage, neglect of duties, abuse of power, and patronage were rampant throughout the public sector. This included law enforcement, customs, tax authorities, banking, education, health care, the judiciary, and utilities. Corruption abounds in Bangladeshi government offices. Many officials receive salaries without having any actual assigned work. Officials are recruited and promoted for reasons that are not objectively clear. Solicitation of bribes is common.

Infographic: TBS

Despite improving its position by seven notches globally this year, Bangladesh now ranks second in terms of business bribery risk in South Asia – ahead of only Afghanistan – due to high expectation of bribes, poor transparency, and low media freedom, according to the 2023 Bribery Risk Matrix.

The country ranked 146th in the index released by the US-based business association TRACE, which measured business bribery risk in 194 countries. The country’s position was 153rd last year.

Released on 14 November, the 2023 Bribery Risk Matrix indicated an improvement in Bangladesh’s ranking, yet its overall score decreased by 3 points to 61 out of 100. A higher score signifies a higher risk of business bribery. The matrix also mentioned low quality of anti-bribery enforcement and a low degree of civil society engagement as the driving factors behind Bangladesh’s poor performance in terms of business bribery risk. Bangladesh now has the second highest commercial bribery risk in South Asia as Pakistan overtook the country this year climbing an impressive 29 notches to 129th position in the global rankings.

Last year, Bangladesh had outperformed Pakistan, while Afghanistan maintained its position at the bottom. According to the index, in South Asia, the business bribery risk in Afghanistan and Bangladesh is “high”, while the risk level of other countries in the region is “medium”, except for Bhutan with a “low” risk.

How Bangladesh performed

This year Bangladesh received a medium score of 60 in business interactions with the government, based on a medium degree of government interaction, a high expectation of bribes, and a medium regulatory burden.

The country scored poorly (66) in the second domain – anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement – based on a medium quality of anti-bribery dissuasion and a low quality of anti-bribery enforcement.

Bangladesh’s poor score of 61 in government and civil service transparency, is based on medium governmental transparency and poor transparency of financial interests.

The South Asian nation also received a poor score of 60 in capacity for civil society oversight based on a low degree of media freedom, quality and civil society engagement.

Corruption is the greatest impediment to conducting business in Bangladesh, overshadowing issues such as liquidity crisis and soaring inflation, according to a survey released recently. Conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in partnership with the World Economic Forum, the survey finds that 64.6% of the respondents think corruption is the biggest obstacle to doing business in the country as they had to bribe even for tax payments, licences and utilities.

<strong>Transparency International</strong>

Bangladesh has been ranked 147 out of 180 in corruption by Transparency International, which said it was one of the countries with a concerning trend of weakening of anti-corruption institutions.

“Fighting corruption is not an end in itself. But there is a fight for social justice, for peace and for security.”

The country has dropped one notch on the Berlin-based organization’s Corruption Perception Index 2021 with the score unchanged at 26.  Bangladesh’s score puts it in the bottom fifth of the countries surveyed. The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100.

Without a doubt, corruption is a vast and complex matter. It means any kinds of dishonest, defiled or illegal behavior, especially of people in authority. It is a major problem in the third world countries but it has been the burning question in Bangladesh. The list of the countries having rampant corruption is headed by Bangladesh several years. Transparency international found it as the most corrupted country. Corruption may originate from want, the immorality of people, lack of transparency, unsolved problems, unfinished works, vicious politicos, weak administration and many after relevant things. All the sectors of the government and the administration are corrupted severely as well. Taking bribe, nepotism, malpractice of power are the natures of corruption. No department of either government or non-government like ministry, office, school, college, university, law court, police station, hospital, etc. is beyond the reach of corruption. Even the victims of accident and the dying patients are not left untouched by corruption. It has become customary in our country that nothing is done without the intervention of corruption.

“The truth will always be our shield against corruption.” 

The influential high officials and their assistants in our country adopt such techniques and pretense to materialize their ill-motives that common people who are deprived of their legal rights. Corruption has a terrible effect on all the parts of society. It leads the country to anarchism. Law and order situation become deteriorated for corruption. The difference between the poor and rich widens day by day. All the development procedures of the government become useless for the cause of corruption. However, this is a humiliating condition for us a nation. It has spoilt our image in the home and abroad. Above all, foreign donors and the investors become reluctant observing the large scale of the practice of corruption. However, the time has changed. With the same parade of the present government, all the people should voice against corruption. Nepotism, favoritism, red-tapism, biased attitude etc. should be dealt with an iron hand. Only our honest approaches can reinforce the government to ensure the good governance. Inclusion corruption begets corruption. It should be prevented urgently in all spheres of our life. Otherwise, we will fail to build up a sound and potent generation. We should look forward to ensuring corruption-free society as well as corruption free country.

 “If corruption is a disease, transparency is a central part of its treatment.”

Corruption prevention and transparency are key elements of the proposed way forward. Even though most of the governance challenges have to be met in Bangladesh, Western buyers can exert substantial influence based on their contractual relationship with factory owners. For them, sustainable supply chain management and recognition of responsibility along the supply chain become more and more important. Codes of Conduct and compliance programs are valuable tools for preventing corruption. Nevertheless, solicitation of bribes and extortion remain everyday challenges.

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”

In sum, corruption continues to be the norm in Bangladesh despite decades of sustained growth. Inability to fight bureaucratic corruption at all levels of the government, particularly in the industrial sector, will make further expansion harder as manufacturing industries shift to higher value-added activities and technological upgrading. Regardless of whether the actual impact of corruption is ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ on the Bangladesh economy, however, curbing corruption is also an important end objective in itself – improving governance and combating corruption are key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets. Therefore, a major challenge for governments in Bangladesh and elsewhere in South Asia is to reduce corruption and bribery in all forms by 2030.

“Radical Transparency. There is no going backwards. We must ensure that greater transparency will drive the prevention and uncovering of corruption in the years ahead.” 

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