Promoting Integrity and Reducing Corruption in Bangladesh
[This article was jointly awarded by Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (BPATC) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bangladesh in 2006*. Word limit for this essay was 1700.]
I deeply expect in near future in the national dailies the Government of Bangladesh will publish the following sort of news:
For That day, to prepare our civil servants, to be competent enough for combating against Mr. Corruption we need to equip them properly. This essay is an effort with objective to assist in this national preparation.
Dear reader, let’s start discussion with a statement from M. K. Gandhi:
“On this earth, there is enough for everyone’s need,
not enough for their greed”
So, if all the citizen of our country are at the peek of their integrity, if the word “corruption” could be deleted from our national dictionary, no doubt in that situation, Bangladesh would been by this time the “Sonar Bangla” of Tagore, “Bangladesh” of Nazrul and “Ruposhee Bangla” of Jibonananda das. Points rises, what is the obstacle in our national prosperity? The answer is absence of integrity and the presence of corruption.
1.2 Many faces of Integrity and Corruption:
Integrity is a key element that contributes the notion of accountability and transparency. It is defined as incorruptibility, an unimpaired condition and is synonymous to honesty. In terms of public service, integrity requires that holders of public office should not place themselves under financial and other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that may influence them in the performance of their official duties. Integrity is not an end in itself rather than a path leading to the effective delivery of the services.
Corruption is a complex multi-faceted social phenomenon with innumerable manifestations. Klitgaard (1996) has developed a simple model to explain the dynamics of corruption, which is as follows:
In real life, corruption is reverse to integrity. Corruption is used as a short hand reference for a large range of illicit activities. Mathematically:
In a social system, when integrity becomes accelerated, the paths of corruption become squeezed. Practice of honesty, punctuality, rules and regulation helps person to be more integrity in daily life. The absences of these practices expedite corruption in life.
A.M.F. Rahman was Additional Chief Sectary, Government to the then East Pakistan (1969-1971). Mr. Rahman was used to be punctual not only to the minutes but even to the seconds. Once, as commissioner he visited Bagerhat. As per tour programme, he was to arrive at Bagherhat at 9.30 a.m. and to be received by the officers. Mr. Rahman actually reached Bagherhat in the government steamer previous night. He got ready in the morning, had his breakfast and was waiting in the steamer in order to officially arrive at Bagherhat at 9.30a.m. At around 9.23a.m. A.M.F. Rahman got down from the steamer and was received by A.M. Nurtul Islam, SDO, Bagherhat. While welcoming the Commissioner he (SDO) also mentioned that A.M.F Rahman was a head of time by five minutes. A.M.F. Rahman asked,” Is that so?” and looked at his watch. Nurul Islam was correct. Now, instead of shaking hands with other officers in the reception line Mr. Rahman turned back to the steamer and shake hands with officers at exactly 9.30 a.m. Now, in this case, If he did not return to the steamer, he would have been unfair to the officers who were punctual. This practice constitutes integrity. Absence of such practice will lead us towards corruption.
1.3 Factors Contributing to Integrity and Corruption:
The causes of reducing integrity and increasing corruption are always contextual, rooted in a country’s policies, bureaucratic, traditions, political development and social history. It is a phenomenon that takes place due to the presence of a number of factors:
- Poor socio-economic condition of people
- Poor enforcement of law
- Poorer punishment of criminals
- Greed for healthy life
- Bad habit of corruption
- Competition to acquire wealth
- Competition to enjoy benefits
- Discretionary power of public servants
- Omitting religion in personal, family and social life
- Erosion of moral values among public servants
- Frustration in job environment
- Lack of opportunity for carrier advancement and promotion
- Lack of transparency in public office
- Absence of commitment to moral value at the top level
- Expansion of public expenditure
- Indiscriminate action by sparing the powerful and punishing the weak.
- In certain families excess wealth has taken them in the path of corruption and destruction.
1.4 What can be done to Promote Integrity and fight corruption?
From broad perspective corruption can be occurred at three levels: International, national and individual institution level. A recent report of the UNDP titled “corruption and Good Government” found that bureaucratic corruption and inefficiency are taking a heavy toll on the Bangladesh Economy. “If Bangladesh were to improve the integrity and efficiency of its bureaucracy, its investment would rise by more than 5% points and its yearly GDP rate would rise by over half a percentage point” (Hossain 2000). For promoting integrity and fight against corruption the following activities and contents can be incorporated:-
- Moral and Social values should be stimulated by religious motivation and culture.
- Provision of laws should be enforced strictly without any favoritism .
- Most emphasis should be given on office discipline, accountability and transparency.
- Check & balance should be monitored for law enforcing agency.
- Adopt “Freedom of Information” laws and provide access to public information.
- Create public awareness for giving their voting power in favor of competent politician.
- Improve transparency and accountability in budget preparation, execution and over sight of expenditure.
- Establish Information center in every office for better service.
- Mobilizing civil, society to monitor good governance
- Improving ethical and professional standards of journalists and promoting training in investigative journalism.
- Implementing education programmes aimed at fostering an anti-corruption culture in society.
- Improve condition for international investment through simplification of government procedures.
1.5 Doable actions for Promoting Integrity:
In the existing institutional context and environment, the following doable actions can be taken for promoting integrity:
a) Strengthen procedures for an effective and merit based civil service particularly recruitment and pay:
The impact of merit based recruitment on corruption in 35 developing countries has been investigated by Evans and Rauch (1996), Higher values in the merit based recruitment index are associated with greater proportion of higher-level officials in the core economic agencies to be enter in possession of a university degree. While controlling for income this index is negatively associated with corruption. Low salaries force public servant to supplement their incomes illicitly while high salaries mean higher losses if public servants gets caught.
b) Establishment of permanent pay commission:
Under this proposal, government of Bangladesh will establish a permanent pay commission. The responsibility of the commission will be to ascertain the pay scale at the end of each fiscal year. The commission on considering the inflation, consumer price index, purchasing power etc. the indicators of macro economic variable, should declare the pay scale for the civil servants of the country. This action will ensure the stability of earnings of the civil servants.
c) Promotion & Incentives on the basis of performance:
For providing all sorts of promotion & Incentives for the civil servants their performance should consider very significantly. This trend will create a competition among offices for providing better service quality. Here, the following model can be introduced for better service quality.
The above Model will be effective only when promotion and incentives are given on the basis of performance.
d) National Integrity System:
A national integrity system is usually based on eleven pillars of integrity shown in the following figure:
The system requires identifying gaps and opportunities for corruption with in each of the pillars and then coordinating the work of the government, civil society and donors into a coherent framework of institutional strengthening.
e) Integrity Surveys, Workshop & Seminar:
Regular survey on integrity, workshop & seminar can be arranged to aware citizen in this regard.
1.6 Doable Action for Reducing Corruption:
In the existing institutional context and environment, the following doable action can be taken for reducing corruption:
a) Citizen charter:
It should be launched in every office. As a result, stakeholders will be aware about the rights and services from the office. It will contribute in reducing corruption.
b) Environmental Factors:
The temptation to abuse public power for private gain is a natural result of people’s self interest. This can be reduced by creating an environment where corruption in difficult and does not pay. Policy makers can create such an environment by understanding the environmental factors that influence corruption.
Here each factor has to be dealt with individual and as a set.
c) Increasing Political Accountability:
Political accountability refers to the constraints placed on the behavior of public officials by organizations and constituencies with the power to apply sanctions on them. Ensuring political accountability the following steps should be taken:
- Political competition should increase
- Transparency should focus
- Party Financing should be disclosed
- Rules & legal Instruction should be followed.
d) Strengthening Civil Society Participation:
As stakeholders in good governance and institution mediating between the state and the people, the organizations that comprise ‘civil society’ can have an important role to play in constraining corruption. Here the following roles should be encourage:
- Role in fighting corruption
- Empowering civil society
- The role of media
- Accountability & legitimacy issues.
e) Creating competitive private sector:
The degree to which powerful elite’s influence decisions and policy-making of the state, constraints the implementation of a fair, competitive, honest and transparent private sector and thus hinders broad based economic development. So govt. should take necessary initiative to play supportive role for encouraging private sector.
f) Institutional Restraints on power:
The Institutional design of the state can be an important mechanism in checking corruption. For ensuring institutional restraints on power the following steps should be taken:-
- Independent & Effective Judiciaries as per article 22 of our constitution
- Recruitment of Ombudsman as per article 77 of our constitution
- Strengthening Durnity Damon Commission
- Audit organizations should be strengthen
- Independent prosecution and Enforcement of law.
1.7 Real Life Story of Integrity:
Case Study of Mr. Rabbani
Ministry of Establishment
22 Jan1987 to 3rd Nov. 1987.
I used to preside over the meetings of the Selection Committee No. 2 which would nominate officers for training abroad in non-degree courses and short courses. Recommendations and tadbir would come from all types of quarters and authorities. I was uniform in my reaction and refusals. All the selection of the nominations made during my tenure was insensitive and non-vulnerable to pressure.
I remember in one case, I was requested a very powerful Minister for reversing the decision of the selection Committee No. 2 and approve the nominations made by the ministry. I declined very politely. Two Deputy Prime Minister pursued this case. One of them was Dr. Abdul Matin. He was anger to me and asked should I do it or not? I submitted to him that Honorable Ministers were always above the officers but in this case the request of the Ministers were nothing but personal tadbir.
Dr. Motin asked me whether I had done any case being persuaded by such request? I answered him negative. I could not honor Kazi Zafar Ahmed on this same case.
Politicians are required to make tadbir for political reasons. I did not get the impression that any Honorable Minister was in any way vindictive. My mind was full with respect for Kazi Zafar Ahmed’s tolerant attitude. So, in human life uniformity is an essential feature of discipline. There cannot be any discipline if the behavior pattern is different. In office, uniformity of conduct saves one from terrible and too many embarrassments.
Corruption is a national problem for us. But I believe, any problem in national life can be removed by the application of political will and citizens joint effort. So, for reducing corruption & promoting integrity in our national life let us all be together as following picture:
If in real sense, we can stand like above, that will be the right action for a right reason. For that tomorrow, let us dedicate our today. With this hope I do conclude here. Thank you.
*Writer of this essay Dewan Mohammad Ahsan Habib, is working as Deputy Director (Traffic) in the Head Office of Bangladesh Betar (Radio).