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Good governance campaigners criticize ACC’s role

Tackle high level graft first

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Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
Good governance campaigners criticized the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for largely failing to tackle high-level corruption asking it to do more in addressing grafts effectively.
They said people frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity because of the failure of the ACC to put the system right in place to prevent and curb corruption at high level.
"There are still substantial deficits in ACC's operations in preventing high level corruption that continue to be recorded in all the sectors. The ACC lacks capacity and efficiency in handling such corruption," Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh, told The New Nation yesterday.
He said, the ACC is yet to draw conclusion of big graft cases filed against influential people. Even it is going slow in carrying out investigations due to inadequate capacity and lack of skilled manpower.
The anti-graft campaigner also observed that ACC is even chasing insignificant graft cases and accused persons for low crimes are being harassed during their inquiry while big fishes are remaining out of their net.
"The ACC officials should be held accountable in this regard," he added.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman further said ACC should know that they are not exempt from scrutiny by citizens, on whose behalf they exist and for whose good it has been established.
"Our intention is not to undermine the ACC. But we want more effective ACC," he added.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, however, said that the ACC is coming out from its previous image under the leadership of its incumbent chairman. The anti-graft body is trying to net big fishes following the observation on BASIC Bank graft case by the country's apex court.
'We're betting high hope that it will do better and act as per the people's expectation in the days to come," he said, adding, "But the task would be difficult if the concerned government regulatory bodies don't extend their support to ACC."    
He further said the government's political will is a must to sustain the ACC's mandate to uproot corruption from the society.  The present government is providing all-out support to strengthen the capacity of the ACC.    
"We're worried by the presence of graft at various levels and large-scale amnesty of criminals on political grounds. The ACC is entrusted with the task to curb corruption. But it is yet to show the success," Serajul Islam Choudhury, Professor Emeritus of Dhaka University told The New Nation.
When asked, he said this is not the job of the ACC. It is the Education Ministry's weakness as the ministry has failed to check coaching business.
"The dignity and reputation of teaching profession have been tarnished through the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)'s investigation on coaching business. The ACC has many important areas to check corruption. I don't know why the ACC did such activities against the teachers. Actually, everything is possible in the country," he said.
"So far, the ACC has failed to show any game changing success in preventing high level corruption. Still it is in preparatory stage in handling such cases," Dr Zahid Hussain, a good governance campaigner and World Bank's lead economist in Bangladesh, told The New Nation yesterday.
He said ACC has showed its inability to tackle allegations of graft in high-profile cases like Padma Bridge
 project, railway scandal, stock market and the Hall-Mark, Destiny Group and BASIC Bank scandals.
"Even the ACC took three years time to summon former BASIC Bank Chairman Abdul Hai Batchu which was unexpected and undesirable. We want an independent, effective and pro-people ACC. Strengthening the institutional capacity of the ACC is imperative to fight against corruption," he added.
Dr Zahid Hussain, however, said ACC alone may not be successful in uprooting corruption from the country unless it gets political support and backing from across the partisan political divide.
He also expressed concern over the wholesale loan-default culture gripping the banking sector and asked the ACC to go tough against the panderers of public money.
When asked, Zahid Hussain said, ACC should know where the priority lies. It should not chase to stop coaching business. The ministry is working to stop coaching centers.

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