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TIB research report

ACC's independence limited to paper only

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Staff Reporter :
Independence of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the national anti-graft agency, is limited to paper only, the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has observed.
The TIB also said the ACC is being used as a political tool to oppress and harass members and activists of opposition parties.
In a follow-up research report on the ACC, the TIB highlighted the remarks and recommended 16 points to prompt its activities and gain people's trust.
TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman, in a press conference at Midas Centre in Dhaka's Dhanmondi on Tuesday, said the ACC lacks skills to conduct investigations in bank corruption, property embezzlement cases, and irregularities in other sectors.
"It is regrettable that the ACC cannot gain people's trust, though it has freedom and is active on paper, but inactive practically. So, the commission has to convince the people that it will prevent all forms of corruption," he emphasized.
In reply to a query, Dr Iftekharuzzaman spoke about the ACC's weaknesses in curbing corruption, adding that ACC is directly influenced by the government, which is unconstitutional.
The TIB has accused ACC of engaging in financial transactions, negligence of duty, and irregularities.
The ACC laid emphasis on preventing corruption, but has been weak in curbing corruption, the report said.  
It continued that the ACC was rather focused on "catching the small fry" than the "big fish."
During the 2006-2018 period, there were 848 cases in 4,038 investigations.
In the ACC cases, the conviction rate is 57.5 per cent, which is lower than the international standard (more than 75 per cent).  The TIB has also given ACC a medium-level score of 61 per cent, which was 61.22 per cent in the 2016 report.
The TIB also said that ACC did not take steps on the basis of hotline allegations. However, the major concern with regard to ACC's accountability and oversight is the lack of any external oversight mechanism - it is only reportable to the president.
Although the ACC has a Monitoring and Evaluation Branch for evaluating inspection reports regularly, there is no public representation in the structure, the report mentioned, adding that although the annual report of ACC is submitted to the president, no discussion has taken place in the parliament regarding this report.
The operational autonomy of ACC is also limited, as sometimes it faces pressure from different stakeholders, including the government and political parties. The provision requiring prior permission of the government in filing cases against public officials, under 'The Government Employment Act 2018', is believed to curtail ACC's autonomy. Moreover, ACC practices self-censorship to avoid adverse reaction from the government, the TIB report said.
Moreover, the report observed that the ACC has a number of weaknesses, including a deficit budget, difficulties in filing allegations, lack of skill and professionalism in investigations, low rate of punishment in corruption cases, absence of an independent investigation system, and people's negative perceptions about its activities.
The TIB used a total of 50 indicators to review the ACC, pursuant to the Initiative for Strengthening Anti-Corruption Agencies.
It used data from 2016 to 2018 for its research. The range of high scores was 67 per cent (pc), medium score was 34-66 pc, and low score was 33 pc.  Of the 50 indicators, the overall score secured by ACC in this assessment is 60 pc, which falls in the "moderate" category.
It is noteworthy that ACC's overall score falls short of 7 points from the "high" category, which indicates that the institution needs to improve by only a few indicators in order to graduate to the "high" category. Among the 50 indicators, the ACC scored "high" in 21 (42 pc),"moderate" in 18 (36 pc), and scored "low" in 11 indicators (22 pc).
The highest score was achieved in "Prevention, Education and Outreach" (75 pc), followed by "Independence and Status" (67 pc) and "Cooperation and External Relations" (67 pc). The lowest score was achieved in 'Detection, Investigation and Prosecution' (44 pc).

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