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Monday, August 13, 2012
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TIB finds graft at CGA office

From right, Former caretaker government adviser M Hafizuddin Khan; Finance Minister AMA Muhith; Transparency International Bangladesh Trustee Board Chairperson Sultana Kamal; Comptroller and Auditor General Ahmed Ataul Hakim; lawmaker M Tajul Islam; former controller general of accounts (CGA) Shahad Chowdhury; and TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman take part in a seminar on the CGA office at the CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka yesterday. Story on page 1Photo: STAR

A study by Transparency International Bangladesh has found 23 instances of corruption at the Controller General of Accounts office.

The findings were revealed yesterday at a seminar on the theme, "Challenge of good governance at the CGA office: ways to overcome", at the CIRDAP auditorium in the capital.

The research found instances of exchange of bribe money of up to Tk 2,000 to promote someone to a higher pay scale.

Newly recruited staff even had to pay a bribe of Tk 100-200 each for drawing their first salary and bonus.

More incidences of bribery were found with regard to authorisation of vehicle maintenance bill (up to 10 percent), internet and telephone bills (2 percent), courier bill (1-5 percent), payroll (1 percent), transport and dearness allowance (Tk 50-100), pension (up to 10 percent), contingency bill (0.2-7 percent).

The study, conducted by Dipu Roy, a programme manager of research and policy at TIB, also found prevalence of bribery for petty tasks such as cheque delivery (Tk 20-50) and error correction (Tk 50-500).

Bribes for contractors' bills ranged from 5 to 10 percent depending on the sums of the bills.

The report said shortage of a workforce is a major problem for the CGA with 37 percent of the total posts remaining vacant, despite an increase in budget allocations every year.

Speaking as the chief guest, Finance Minister AMA Muhith slammed the audit offices for not following the rules properly, and said the report was based on "public perception".

"You may not accept the percentage [as put forward by the report], but there is no denying that corruption exists."

He said it was unfortunate that people struggled to draw their due pensions.

"I made it easier to draw pension during my time as a minister [in the 1980s]."

TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman refuted Muhith's statement, and said the report was not based on public perception, rather on the experience of the informants.

Muhith said it would not be possible to root out corruption by having an ombudsman in every office.

"One was created at the tax office at great expense but the results were insignificant."

"A policy is being prepared. In every office, one person will be responsible for receiving complaints and giving advice. It will be done within this year."

The finance minister also spoke on the culture of presenting the bulk of the bills to the accounts offices towards the end of the budget year.

"I will enforce a rule this year to make sure that not more than 25 percent of the bills can be submitted in the month of June."

M Hafizuddin Khan, a former comptroller and auditor general (CAG), questioned the dual control of the CGA office, asking who actually governed the office: the CAG or the finance ministry?

On this matter, Muhith said a decision would be taken on whether the accounts office should be separated from the audit office.

Khan stressed the need for strict monitoring and supervision by the finance ministry.

Muhith said the country should move towards the accrual basis of accounting instead of the existing cash method, as Bangladesh is the only country in the region to be still persisting with it.

Acting CGA Md Anisur Rahman said the office had been facing a severe manpower shortage.

CAG Ahmed Ataul Hakim and lawmaker M Tajul Islam also spoke at the meeting chaired by TIB Trustee Board chairperson Sultana Kamal.

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