For the UNCAC to Succeed in Bangladesh, More Political Will Is Needed

Dhaka, 27 November 2014, by Shammi Laila Islam.

Seven years after accession to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), Bangladesh has achieved significant progress but there is still a long way to go before the Convention is properly implemented.

Like other countries, Bangladesh is facing some challenges implementing the UNCAC and it’s action plan for compliance has not been fully and properly followed. A number of laws and strategies, including the Right to Information Act, Whistleblower Protection Act, Mutual Legal Assistance Act, and the National Integrity strategy etc., have been enacted but not effectively enforced and the laws themselves remain to be improved. In addition, many laws and reforms that are needed for compliance have yet to be enacted, including the Witness Protection Act, Civil Service Act etc.

Partisan political considerations, provision for “whitening black money” (legalising illicit funds), and political influence over the judiciary and law enforcement agencies often seem to hinder the anti-corruption agenda. They promote a culture of impunity and undermine the effectiveness of the country’s institutions, including the executive, legislature and judiciary. Furthermore, the Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission is neither sufficiently independent nor as effective and neutral as desired. In November, a number of influential persons from the ruling party were exempted from corruption charges despite the existence of credible allegations. Even political and electoral commitments to fight corruption, for example, are not always enforced without fear or favour.

Moreover, not only is there a lack of awareness of the UNCAC among the general population and public officials, but there are also problems with ministerial coordination and proper monitoring and evaluation of measures adopted for implementing the Convention. Successful implementation of UNCAC requires organised efforts of stakeholders from the country’s key institutions, including all organs of the state, media, civil society and private sector. Above all, the most crucial factor is the degree to which the political establishment is committed to carrying out the Convention properly.

In most cases, Bangladesh’s domestic laws are compatible with the UNCAC, but effective enforcement needs to be improved. Corrupt people must be punished, and enforcement efforts must be permitted to take their course without political or other interferences. Furthermore, corruption cases must be handled according to due judicial process.

The Anti-Corruption Commission should be further strengthened its independence must be ensured, and capacity-building initiatives should be taken to strengthen investigation and prosecution of concerned agencies. In order to honour its international commitment and maintain its international standing, the government needs to be more aware and careful about anti-corruption in the country.