Anti-Corruption Commission

Anti-Corruption Commission The birth of the independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is associated with the growing public discontent over the ineffective role of the now defunct Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC) in containing corruption, specially high level corruption. The discontent was reticulated by the media, the civil society and also a group of multi-lateral donors.

The major political parties such as the bangladesh awami league and the bangladesh nationalist party (BNP) in their respective election manifesto of 2001 committed to establish independent ACC and an independent Anti-Corruption Council. However it was not until 2004 that the ruling alliance of four parties led by BNP established ACC by an Act of Parliament (Act No. 5 of 2004) through which BAC was abolished.

The preamble to the law affirms that it is expedient and desirable to establish an independent anti-corruption commission to combat corruption and related activities, and for investigation of specific complaints of corruption.

Published in the Bangladesh Gazette Extraordinary on 23 June 2004, the Act has thirty seven sections and a schedule. The major features of the law include, but not necessarily limited to, establishment of the commission, its head office, terms and conditions of the members of the commission including the chairman, procedure for selection through a high-powered selection committee headed by a judge of the appellate division of the Supreme Court, eligibility or otherwise for appointment as members, resignation and terms of services of members, appointment of officials, the functions of the commission, general and special powers for investigation, financial independence, separate prosecuting unit etc.

It is important to note that the law categorically provides that the commission shall be independent and neutral. Its members are debarred from holding any office of profit after their tenure of four years in office. They can not be removed from office except through following the same procedure as are applicable to the judges of the Supreme Court. It has the authority to make rules with the previous approval of the President. This is a departure from the existing practice of rule-making which requires previous approval of the government. The idea perhaps is to vest greater independence of authority for commission in sharp contrast to other statutory bodies. The independence of financial powers for the commission is also guaranteed by the law. It does not, for instance, require any government approval with respect to expenditure from the specific heads of the budget once approved by the government. Besides, the commission has powers to appoint its own secretary.

To facilitate investigation, the Commission has the authority to call for any information from the government or from any other authority of the government. If within the stipulated time the Commission does not receive the required information, it may start investigation on its own. Besides, the law also requires that whenever the Commission starts investigation on its own, the government or any authority under it, shall be bound to assist the Commission in a manner specified by the general or special orders of the Commission. As part of the investigation process, the Commission has the authority to direct any person to submit statement of assets in a manner specified by the Commission. Submission of false or baseless accounts of wealth has been made punishable upto three years of imprisonment or with fine or with both. Provision of imprisonment upto ten years including seizure of property acquired beyond the known sources of income are also there in the law.

There was widespread public criticism about the way the newly created anti-graft body started functioning. Conflicts of opinion among members of ACC coupled with the government's inability or unwillingness to provide 'legal, administrative and institutional support' are perceived to have contributed to the ineffectiveness of ACC.

In January 2007, the second non-party caretaker government of the period reconstituted ACC, brought about some amendments to give it more operative freedom than were given in the original Act. Since February 2007, more than 300 politicians, government officials have been prosecuted for corruption. Out of these, 110 accused persons have been convicted in 79 corruption cases for different jail terms by courts of the Special Judges. Many of them have filed appeals in the higher courts and are on bail.

Till June 2008, ACC filed 384 first information reports (FIR). Other organizations have filed 710 FIR which are being pursued by ACC. Three hundred and fourteen persons were asked to submit statement of wealth of which 273 complied with the notice issued by ACC. Thirty-two persons did not do so. Many of them are said to have left the country at that time. [AMM Shawkat Ali]

Bibliography Act V of 2004 and subsequent amendments, Parliament Secretariat and Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs; Anti-Corruption Commission, Annual Report, 2007-2008.