Reacting cautiously to the formation of ward level local committees of the ruling party in the context of relief operation during the Corona-Covid-19 crisis, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) demanded that their role should be limited only to assist the local administration. In a statement issued on 17 April 2020 to the media, the TIB says that it is not unusual to raise doubt about the extent to which such committees will deliver any positive result in a context where a section of local level political leaders and activists are being reportedly found to be involved in widespread corruption of various types including embezzlement, hoarding and misappropriation of relief goods.
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB said, “the country and the people are confronting a mega crisis due to the epidemic. The ultra-poor are facing the worst risks. They have been joined by many others rendered unemployed by the lockdown. Relief goods must reach everyone without any pilferage, and there is no scope of partisan political consideration. The Prime Minister has pledged exactly the same, and we want to be assured that the Head of the Government’s declaration will be strictly enforced in relief operation”.
He said, “the new committees can serve the purpose only if they can stay above partisan bias. The opportunity may then be created that no one in need of food will be deprived. But it must also be borne in mind sadly that nearly all of those involved in various misdeeds like corruption, embezzlement and thievery are reportedly politically linked. Hence, a concern is not baseless that the new relief committees might in fact become platforms for further irregularities”.
Commending examples of the way a section of the administrative officials took stern action against some perpetrators, Iftekharuzzaman said that the public officials should discharge the key role in relief operation, including oversight and monitoring with highest levels of integrity”. The committees linked to political parties should only assist the local administration and must in no way be allowed to become a means of partisan influence on the administration so that the relief operation does not become a fest of corruption.
“At the same, we call upon the administration to strictly enforce legal action against the corrupt without any regard to political identity”, said Iftekharuzzaman. TIB suggested that the list of recipients of the relief goods including quantity and date of distribution should be disclosed for public information regularly through website, so that any gaps and irregularities can be monitored.
From the very onset of the crisis TIB has been stressing upon the authorities that to succeed in coping with it there is no alternative to transparency, accountability and effective corruption control. The Prime Minister has also warned strongly against corruption in relief operation. The primary responsibility to comply rests with political leaders, activists and other beneficiaries of political linkage as well as administration, and law enforcement agencies including the police, the statement reiterated.