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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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News Analysis

Puzzling ACC

Ghulam Rahman

The Anti-Corruption Commission has finally found out that a few individuals may indeed have committed some crimes in dealing with the Padma bridge project. What the World Bank had been vocal about all along, leading to the cancellation of its $1.2 billion loan, the largest in any country in the multilateral agency's history, has now belatedly been vetted by the ACC.

But meantime, a lot of questions have been raised about the role of the ACC and its chief's past remarks and the government's reactions to the WB allegations. Many of the ACC chief's comments were contradictory and gave a different impression about the independence of the anti-graft body.

Let's look at some of the past comments of ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman. On July 11, just 12 days after the World Bank had cancelled its loan, he said some companies might have "misguided" the World Bank which led to the cancellation of its loan for the bridge project.

All along the topsy-turvy journey of the project, one person, Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Moshiur Rahman, created a lot of hurdles to the donors' engagement in the project. First he refused to step aside, as a precondition set by the Bank for revival of its loan. Among many things, his refusal resulted in the loan cancellation. But finally he went on leave, paving the way for the global lender's return to the scheme.

Then again Moshiur cast another long shadow over the project when he suddenly returned from abroad and claimed he had joined his workplace after the leave. The donors were highly irritated and the project became uncertain again.

Just when the whole nation desperately wished that Moshiur would not torpedo the project by his sudden return to office, the ACC chief blurted out that even if Moshiur remained at work, it would not influence ACC's inquiry in any way.

If one looks back at the project history, one finds that two SNC Lavalin officials were charged with corruption by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and put on trial. However, the ACC (and also the government) seemed to be quite apathetic about this fact and tried to ignore it.

At one stage, Ghulam Rahman said the ACC was not sending any team to Canada to collect information related to the Padma bridge graft allegation.

However, the same ACC later changed position when it said it would not be able to file a first information report (FIR) over graft allegations in the project unless Canada provided it with relevant information.

Without an FIR, the ACC cannot upgrade its "inquiry" into "investigation" as expected by the WB.

And only a month ago, quite unnecessarily, the ACC chairman said they had not found until then any evidence of corruption in the bridge project based on which they could file an FIR.

But when journalists interacted with the Bank's expert panel that oversees the ACC's inquiry, we got a clear feeling that the panel thought the ACC had wasted time and sat on the graft allegation for about a year. The frustration was clear that the ACC did not find strong enough a case to upgrade the allegation from "inquiry" level to "investigation" level.

An official requesting anonymity also said the anti-graft body had repeatedly requested the Canadian authorities to allow an ACC team to visit that country. The ACC is yet to get any response.

But then we also see reports that the Canadian police have found proof that SNC Lavalin had offered at least six influential Bangladeshis, including former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain, huge bribes to obtain the consultant's job in the Padma bridge project. We also come to know the RCMP shared this information with the ACC.

The government's reaction to the graft allegation was bizarre. From the beginning the government, from the top to the bottom, defended that there could not be any graft because the work had not been awarded. The government and the ACC also aired the view that graft conspiracy could not be a crime in Bangladesh law.

However, the position has changed and it has been accepted that "corruption conspiracy" is also a crime.

And now the same ACC finds "efforts of a corruption conspiracy" in the same project.

The whole episode of the Padma bridge project has opened up scopes to rethink how efficient and independent our anti-graft body is.

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In the developed countries, either people like Ghulam Rahman would have voluntarily resigned a long time ago for not being able to perform duties due to political interference or forced to resign. However, in Bangladesh, we will never see this as people like Ghulam Rahman love the positions they are in and the perks that come with the positions.

: Truth Teller

The whole exercise of the ACC Chief was to save the high-ups in the government from corruption charges. By so doing, ACC was voicing government's perceived notion that there has been no corruption at all as any money had yet been released by the WB and other lenders. The government forgot that the intention to commit a crime is also an amenable and cognizable offence. The ACC Chief has proved himself to be a confused talker, shifting his premises with time and tide and also lacking in personality and principle to hold an august position. Unfortunately, even at this eleventh moment, he is trying his level best to protect two favourite Awami political figures. Does the nation really suitable talents who can rise above party politics to stem the tide of ill- gotten money?

: Reaz Hassan

Comments

  • Shafique Ullah
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12:39 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    The integrity of ACC is questionable. They play like cat and mouse.

  • Jumana Sarwar
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12:43 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Time has come to sue the ACC for committing fraud and making conspiracy to fraud and protecting the corrupt.

  • i.Hassan
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12:48 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Sound like ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman is covering someone herein. This is a typical cover-up case now. WB must not relax and continue their good job and dig deeper to bring out all the fish, hiding behind ACC cover-up.

  • Mahmood
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12:56 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Nobody with an iota of sense would believe this ACC Chairman. It is difficult to understand how these so-called educated persons like Mr Golam would lick someone's shoes to be in her good book.

  • Syed Imtiaz Ali
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:07 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    A real national shame ACC has committed by trying to protect the accused. The intention to receive bribes for favour is also a very big crime, as that is where it all starts! ACC and its chief had always denied any involvement and graft committed. But now for a week he has been saying there exists some graft work. We know that if there is smoke there has to be the existence of fire. Let us ignorant see what happens next for defending the accused.

  • Dr. Ahsan Habib
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:17 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    A thorough analysis that finds the mistakes or biases of the ACC. But we should not forget that our PM was also vocal about the innocence of Abul. This should teach her to think beyond the party interests and take a broader perspective as the prime minister.

  • Watchdog
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:24 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    It seems that ACC chief has lost the credibility to hold the position longer. To be honest if he thinks that his sincere opinion defers from the Govt. then resign now.

  • Mizan Rahman
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:27 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    We the highest level of government should talk with responsibility. We must not guess or do not make some political statement about a judicial matters. This is unfortunate that both ACC and the highest level of government talked something that is not we see today. The ACC should prove that they are independent constitutional body at least this time when the demand of Padma bridge is a demand from the whole nation. Please do some good job.

  • Faridul Alam, PhD
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:59 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Should we measure the efficacy of governance in Bangladesh in terms of the present government's success and failure in claiming moral authority, derived from a privileged discourse/ narrative premised on the “War of Liberation”, regardless of an unending stream of revelations on its duplicity and greed desperately to retain in power constantly feeding the breaking news? Historically, the unfolding narrative of the body politic in Bangladesh always transcended hegemony even if the leaders at the helm conveniently refused to be unsettled by the lifecycle of the developing story they could never be the author of, call it comeuppance or not.

  • suahmed
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 02:02 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Instead of prevention, ACC is protecting corruption of big guys as it is dictated by the political authority. ACC was never independent and a fair authority to deal with prevention of corruption. We do not know how long time it would be required to make our ACC independent, bold and fair working institution.

  • Nisar Ahmed
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 03:06 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    This is a golden opportunity for Bangladesh to show the world that we handle corruption seriously - no matter who the person is. If we do this right we will be able to attract more investment in our country. Hope our government seizes this opportunity for the benefit of the nation and not bungles this for the benefit of one or two influential politicians.

  • niloufar sarker
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 03:18 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    What proof does Canadian police have? So I SNC Lavalin official had made a list of names of BD officials in his diary that the company would like to bribe. Intention to bribe is an offence in Canada as well in many countries as a result there is a court case pending. Obviously, the company must have gone on a lobbying spree to influence BD officials concerned. Lobbying to get a job is a common practice all over the world. Dick Cheney who had connection with Halliburton was able to get his company the biggest contract in war ravaged Iraq. Whether our officials listed in Lavalin diary received any bribe is the question. Being in the list is not a culpable fault. Does Mr Inam have copy of the proof that Canadian fault that he could share with us? I have scoured the internet and failed.

  • naabaj
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 04:11 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Is there any Bangladeshi immigrant/s involved in SNC Lavalin Canada' graft offer?

  • N. Alamgir
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 06:04 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    The stumbling block for the approval of the Padma bridge has been definitively identified. Why are the govt and the ACC trying to save him? Is Abul Hossain of such importance that he cannot be dispensed with and punished to corruption? Why will the people of Bangladesh be deprived of the Padma bridge for only a few persons?

  • Alpona
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 06:36 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    I really like this column which transpires the state of current Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh. I really wish people in Bangladesh recognise these corrupt people and never again allow them to get to power.

  • Truth Teller
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 06:50 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    If anyone, other than the ministers and politicians from Awami League, who should be blamed for cancellation of the World Bank funding for the Padma Bridge project would be the ACC, its chief Ghulam Rahman, and its puppet show. The ACC has proved beyond any doubt that it could not function independently and it has always made movements whenever people in the Awami League government pulled the strings like in a puppet show. ACC and its chief, like the Awami League people, do not care about the country; they are there for themselves and its puppeteers in Awami League. No thanks for the sad puppet show, ACC.

  • Shahed Habib
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 06:59 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Thanks for your analysis; it shows that he is working under the dictates of his appointing authority. He is serving the people in power not the nation. People have no expectation from this commission. The chairman loves power; he is ready to sacrifice principles for any small benefit.

  • Abul Kalam Azad
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 07:25 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    One must sue Ghulam Rahaman for his misleading remarks to the nation if it is an offence in the eye of law. Remove him from his post and take action.

  • Shabbir A Bashar
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 08:30 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    This is also who recently said one could not file a case-based on the words of drivers and house maids. This is symptomatic of a mindset deeply entrenched in a master-slave relationship diagonally opposed to the basic needs of an independent objective thought process based on facts rather than social bigotry. Such individuals are not the best candidates to head up an important organization like the ACC.

  • Asad Zaman
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 08:33 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    The government showed a bizarre reaction and the ACC wasted time! This is one side of the story, but not the whole truth. One may rightfully put the global lender in the same category. In the past, both the government and the ACC had requested the WB to provide them with further documents, proof, etc. more than once in order to take action against those accused officials. But the WB was unable or failed to do so for a long time, it could not provide any documents or proof of corruption conspiracy to the government or ACC, except its own letter in which the global lender recommend what the government should do (to receive its $1.2 billion loan for the bridge). Under those circumstances, without any proof, it seemed to be fair and rational for the government not to take any drastic measures against any minister or other officials. As we know, the government did not want to assassinate any of its officials’ character. The accused officials were presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Such response of the government must not be misunderstood as bizarre. What is more puzzling is the response of the WB and how it wasted time (or delayed the bridge work) by not providing any proof or supportive documents to the government or the ACC.

  • Khubdho
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 09:12 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    The ACC chief is simply hired by the government to dance on its commands. Let us face it, there ACC is not independent.

  • mshafiqula
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 09:35 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Of late the ACC chief’s dubious role is revealed and the nation is tired of his blatant lies often aired in the electronic media. However, ACC performs well in some cases while it acts in reverse way when scams relate to ruling party high ups. Its recent clean certificate to Suranjit is a glaring case of double standard. What about the 3000 crore- plus looting by the Hallmark group? Meanwhile, we want to see the relevant World Bank letters which the administration is apparently hiding from the people since long.

  • Robin
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 09:55 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    ACC has proven to be incompetent to fight corruption. Ghulam Rahman should resign before ACC is branded as a laughable and incompetent by the world community.

  • Nizam
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 10:07 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Thanks for summarising ACC's inefficient and dubious role. It is high time Ghulam resigns from his post.

  • Hafeejul Alam
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 10:20 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    The Chairman of ACC is being urged to be strong and straightforward. By doing so, he has nothing to loose but many things to gain, not only for himself but also for the poor people of this country. If he honestly believes that there is a valid point in the World Bank findings, he should invariably go by those without paying heed to anyone else. Let the truth triumph.

  • salim
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 10:43 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    Once they said corruption conspiracy is not a crime. But they admitted the opposite to WB. Was it to dodge people?

  • Zahid
    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 10:54 AM GMT+06:00 (134 weeks ago)

    What a sordid and shameful affair and there is no end to it. The powers that be,feel its their turn to loot Bangladesh,and so it goes on and on.Please name the names.


 

 


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