3 independent bodies face lack of coordination, The Independent, February 07, 2014
Non-cooperation, distrust and a blame game among the three independent institutions — the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Information Commission (IC) — make transparency and accountability difficult, officials observed at a conference in Dhaka on Thursday. Participants from the three institutions also pointed out that as most of the higher officials of government attach the highest importance to their respective posts and positions rather than to discharging their responsibilities, it is very difficult to make their institutions accountable and transparent before the people. Also, the dearth of a strong political will has also caused the situation to deteriorate, they added.
The Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) and Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Fur Die Freiheit, a non-governmental organisation, jointly organised the conference on ‘Interagency collaboration and cooperation among the office of CAG, ACC and IC Bangladesh’ at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).
ACC chairman M Bodiuzzaman, chief information commissioner (CIC) Mohammad Farooq and comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Masud Ahmed took part in the discussion. BEI president Farooq Sobhan moderated the conference. Other officials of the three institutions also shared their views and opinions.
According to them, the public and private sectors have recognised that sharing of information and knowledge, and proactive disclosures across organisational boundaries, are critical in bringing about transparency and accountability as they do not believe each other.
While the ACC blames CAG for not providing adequate information for it to carry out investigation against any corruption or irregularities, the IC accuses the ACC of not cooperating with the institutions.
However, the chiefs of the CAG, ACC and IC felt that collaboration and cooperation among their institutions were essential for ensuring transparency, accountability and integrity.
ACC chairman M Bodiuzzaman said there is a tendency among these institutions to blame each other instead of cooperating. “The fact is that there is a lack of confidence and cooperation. Like political parties, no one believes the other. We three watchdogs don’t believe each other,” he added.
He said each institution has to depend on the others to carry out its assigned responsibilities and duties. “It is very unfortunate that when an independent institution or individual asks for information about an ongoing investigation in connection with corruption, we feel embarrassed,” the ACC chairman said.
He also said without evidence, it should not be wise for an individual or institution to request information about an ongoing investigation.
“We also have limitations and shortcomings in providing information to the media or other institutions. Actually we don’t have strong political will and commitment. We can’t say that the irregularities mean irregularities,” M Bodiuzzaman said.
The ACC chief added that many institutions, such as the National Board of Revenue, do not provide information.
“It should be remembered that we are not anyone’s enemy. The ACC is empowered only to carry out investigations. The ACC doesn’t file cases against any person. It is the responsibility of the police to file cases,” he pointed out.
M Bodiuzzaman said the government and non-government officials prefer to lodge complaints as anonymous persons as they feel that their bosses would terminate their employment if their names are disclosed. “As they are afraid of their bosses’ attitude, they don’t dare to lodge complaints in their own names. As a result, corruption and misuse of power continue. If we could reassure such officials or people about their job security, corrupt bosses would be brought to book,” he added.
CAG Masud Ahmed said in a capitalist society it is not possible to provide information. “Attaining accountability and transparency in public financial management for achieving good governance are our main tasks. We can’t provide information before completing our reports or handing them over to the President,” he said. He confirmed that when the ACC or IC wants information, it is very embarrassing for the CAG.
“Actually we all need to introduce a system to make ourselves understand each other. If the ACC or IC requests information from us, we can’t give it to them, as we have to maintain secrecy in preparing reports before submitting these to the President,” he said.
Masud Ahmed said the CAG officials do not discharge their duties as investigation officers. “Before making CAG reports public, we have to place them before the parliamentary standing committees and then submit them to the President,” he added.
Apart from these aspects, the CAG explained, “it is our part of culture and mindset not to provide information to others”.
“But I hope that the prevailing situation will change if integrated coordination is built up among us,” he said.
He added that by conducting effective audit of public sector operations for optimum utilisation of public resources, it will provide reliable and objective information to assist in establishing accountability and transparency in government activities.
Chief information commissioner (CIC) Mohammad Farooq said it will take time to strengthen the Information Commission. “ACC and CAG are old institutions. We have just started our journey. We can now discuss contradictory issues relating to the law by holding frequent meetings,” he said.
He also observed that individuals prefer to provide information over telephone instead of filing cases.
“I think we will be able to make our institutions transparent and accountable gradually,” the IC chief remarked.
The BEI president suggested that collaboration and communication among the three institutions — the CAG, ACC and IC — are essential to facilitate greater coordination among them and promote greater transparency and accountability in Bangladesh.