Weak national integrity system undermines governance, nourishes corruption -TIB (English)
Dhaka, 14 May 2014: A weak National Integrity System (NIS) bedeviled by wide gap of practice and implementation compared to legal provisions and institutional capacity is undermining the prospect of governance and nourishing corruption, reveals a study of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) released today. The study conducted on 15 NIS institutions between August 2012 – September 2013, shows that despite having relatively strong legal framework, resources and institutional framework their implementation and practice are largely inadequate and a culture of non-compliance generally prevails resulting in a lower than possible level of transparent and accountable governance in the country.
The report titled ‘National Integrity System Assessment: Bangladesh’ was released today at the BRAC Center in Dhaka. Similar studies were also done on Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka by respective chapters of Transparency International. Co-aouthors of the report Professor Salahuddin M. Aminuzzaman of University of Dhaka and Professor Sumaiya Khair, Deputy Executive Director of TIB presented the findings. The organization’s Chairperson Advocate Sultana Kamal and Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman were also present.
The 15 pillars of NIS covered by the study are: Parliament, Executive, Judiciary, Public Administration, Local Government, Police, Comptroller and Auditor General, Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, National Human Rights Commission, Information Commission, Political Parties, Civil Society, Media, and Business sector. Each institution has been assessed in terms of legal provision, capacity, governance and role. The study focuses particularly on the legal framework and the actual institutional practice. It is a qualitative study and has relied on a combination of primary and secondary data, including relevant national laws, research, reports (media and otherwise), and key informant interviews. The research output has undergone a peer review and libel check and has been validated by a strong 8-member Advisory Group.
The National Integrity System (NIS) assessment provides a benchmark for analysing the robustness and effectiveness of a country’s institutions of accountability in addressing corruption, the press conference was told. According to the study a dysfunctional parliament bedeviled by the culture of boycott, a dominant power exercising executive, and increasing politicization of the bureaucracy, police and judiciary has resulted in lack of oversight, transparency and accountability required for establishing good governance. On the other side, people’s confidence in various Commissions, e.g., Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, National Human Rights Commission and Information Commission of the Government has gone down following doubts raised about their independence and effectiveness. The study also found crisis of internal governance in political parties, civil society and the media.
While talking to the media during the press conference the Executive Director of TIB Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, “While the lack of political will has been a continuing stumbling block in the process of democratic and accountable governance in Bangladesh, there are other cross cutting issues that have a direct bearing on the current NIS which include ominous level of partisan political influence on the institutions, weak oversight, insufficient resources, lack of incentives, dearth of technical and professional competence, nepotism, and corruption and an absence of exemplary punishment for corruption leading to a culture of impunity.”
He further said, “as the study has been undertaken against the backdrop of the adoption of the National Integrity Strategy 2012 (Jatiyo Shudhachar Koushol), by the Government of Bangladesh, we hope that its findings and recommendations will provide extremely valuable support to the implementation process of the strategy”.
The study placed 63 recommendations to strengthen these 15 NIS institutions and also underscored strict implementation of the existing laws. The recommendations included, among others, are:
-taking apprprioate measures to make the parliament effective, especially to ensure healthy debate for accountable governance and enacting law to stop the practice of parliamentary boycott; -enactment of the draft Code of Conduct Bill for MPs as a law;
-reform the Rules of Business in order to ensure checks and balance in the role of the Executive;
-appointments of Supreme Court Judges by an independent body (e.g., a Supreme Judicial Commission or a collegium of judges) in concurrence with the Chief Justice and in conformity with prescribed rules developed in this respect; strict compliance with codes of conduct by all judicial officers including mandatory disclosure of income and assets updatable on annual basis;
-enactment of a Civil Service Act and provision for the Public Officials to disclose information of wealth and assets and update annually;
-reform of the legal framework for the police force to include extensive transparency, accountability, independence, professional integrity and no impunity provisions in police operations; -strict punishment for police officials and staff who are guilty of corruption, human rights violation and other offences;
-enactment of law specifying the eligibility criteria for appointments of EC members and a framework for monitoring compliance with electoral laws, rules and regulations;
-adoption of a strategic plan for the ACC developed by itself to effectively deliver its mandate and re-examining the ACC organogram;
-inclusion of a provision in the constitution of political parties for transparency, disclosure and accountability and brining them under RTI Act;
-greater accountability and transparency for the CSOs in respect of their activities and finances;
-independent and voluntary code of conduct for the media affirming fair, balanced and accurate journalism;
-stopping the practice of using of office of politics and public representation as profit-making enterprise; and
-adoption of the voluntary practice of “publishing what you pay” by the business community.