Vol. 5 Num 149 Thu. October 21, 2004  
Front Page

Most corrupt for fourth time
Govt rejects TI report

For the fourth year in a row Bangladesh has become the most corrupt country in the Transparency International's (TI) corruption perception index (CPI) this year. It however shares the position with Haiti.

The CPI 2004 that lists 146 countries this year against last year's 133, however, shows Bangladesh has made a slight improvement of .2 points to 1.5 of a clean score of 10. A score of below 3 indicates 'rampant corruption', according to a TI press release.

This year, the TI assessed corruption in Bangladesh through eight surveys compared to only three last year. It surveyed business enterprises while reports of multilateral organisations such as the World Economic Forum were used to determine Bangladesh's ranking in the CPI. The report does not take into account anti-graft measures.

Law Minister M Moudud Ahmed however rejected the TI assessment and said: "We do not accept the criteria for such an index. There are other countries in the world, which are much more corrupt than Bangladesh."

Health Minister Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain told The Daily Star last night that the government does not agree with such a ranking as it is not based on 'correct information'.

"They blow up small discrepancies in big projects. They also do not go to the bottom of media reports to judge whether the allegations are true," said Mosharraf.

"Comparison with other countries is not realistic because of differences in social perceptions and definitions," he said. "Some people define fundamentalism or human rights differently from us."

Finland was found to be the least corrupt country in the world, closely followed by New Zealand, Denmark and Iceland. Nigeria, Myanmar and Chad are hot on the heels of Bangladesh and Haiti as countries to have the most corrupt public officials and politicians.

TI Bangladesh (TIB) Treasurer Prof. Muzaffer Ahmad told reporters at the Dhaka launch of the report that right to information for the media and sincere fulfilment of the government's commitments to appoint an independent ombudsman for the anti-corruption bureau and separation of judiciary are required to reduce corruption.

He also cautioned that labelling a country as the 'most corrupt' is perhaps incorrect as it is a matter of interpretation.

"Inter-country comparisons also have to be done very carefully as the data reliability for each country differs from case to case,' he added.

"Corruption robs countries of their potential," said TI Chairman Peter Elgen at the Berlin-based organisation's CPI 2004 simultaneous launch round the globe yesterday from London.

"Corruption in large-scale public projects is a daunting obstacle to sustainable development, and results in a major loss of public funds needed for education, healthcare and poverty alleviation, both in developed and developing countries," observed Elgen.

"Tenders should include objective award criteria and public disclosure of the entire process," says the TI in a press release. "Exceptions to open competitive bidding must be kept to a minimum and explained and recorded, since limited bidding and direct contracting are particularly prone to manipulation and corruption. Public contracting must be monitored by independent oversight agencies and civil society."

TI Vice Chair Rosa Ines Ospina Robledo said: "Tough sanctions are needed against companies caught bribing, including forfeit of the contract and blacklisting from future bidding."

Sixty countries scored less that 3 out of 10, indicating rampant corruption. And 106 of the 146 countries scored less than 5, according to the CPI. Countries with a score higher than 9, with very low levels of perceived corruption, are predominantly the rich countries. "But the poorest countries, most of which are at the bottom half of the index, are in the greatest need of support in fighting corruption," said Elgen.

This year's CPI draws on 18 surveys provided to the TI between 2002 and 2004, conducted by 12 independent institutions. The index includes only those countries that feature in at least three surveys. As a result, many countries, including some which could be among the most corrupt, are missing because there are simply not enough survey data available, explained the TI press release.

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