In 2015, two thirds of the graft accused were acquitted by the trial court.
The anti-graft watchdog blamed lack of skilled investigators, non-compliance of due procedures in filing cases, lengthy process of case disposal and low presence of witnesses for the poor outcome.
Commission officials, lawyers and anti-graft campaigners have blamed a lack of evidence, weak inquiry reports, excessive haste in filing cases and submitting charge sheets and legal loopholes for the weak results.
Those accused in 207 out of 306 cases disposed of last year were acquitted by the Special Judge’s Court dealing with the cases filed by the ACC and the now-defunct Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC).
The accused in 99 other cases were convicted, according to the 2015 Annual Report of the anti-graft body, released recently. The ACC has faced a similar dismal success rate in cases disposed of in the last couple of years.
In 2014, as many as 243 cases were disposed of, among which, accused got released in 142 cases. It was 164 out of 255 in 2013, 161 out of 224 in 2012, and 133 out of 166 in 2011, ACC’s official statistics show.
“An inquiry officer has to deal with multiple cases due to lack of manpower. In addition, many inquiry officers are transferred to other offices in the middle of their investigation causing delays in the investigation,” an ACC official told the Dhaka Tribune, asking not to be named.
Some officials have had to conduct investigations into 20 to 40 cases at a time, according to ACC sources.
‘Lawyers have to be included in the vetting process before submission of charge sheets so that the possible success of the cases can be analysed earlier’
Of the 306 cases disposed of last year, 188 were filed by the ACC and 118 by the BAC. The conviction rate is only around 37% for the ACC cases and around 25% for those lodged by the BAC, the report stated.
According to a recent study carried out by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), the conviction rate in corruption cases dealt by the ACC was only average 37% during 2013-2015.
Former ACC chairman Ghulam Rahman has pointed out sluggishness of cases, lack of efficient lawyers, and legal and process-related complexities as the main reasons behind the poor results.
“It is tough to manage the witnesses of cases for a long period while the ACC officials who retire before a case is disposed of are also reluctant to continue the cases as they are not given any allowance,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
The statistics indicate that the ACC is still conducting inquiries into a large number of cases filed by the BAC – an indication of the sluggishness of the judicial process of the country, he said.
Meanwhile, ACC senior panel lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan mentioned the same reasons cited by Ghulam Rahman and the TIB.
“We cannot collect evidence on time if the investigations are delayed. On the other hand, lack of capacity of the lawyer creates a stage where prosecutors sometimes fail to prove the cases,” he told the Dhaka Tribune, stressing heavy training for ACC lawyers.
“The lawyers have to be included in the vetting process before submission of charge sheets so that the possible success of the cases can be analysed earlier,” he added.
Khurshid also urged the commission to uproot internal corruption to improve the situation.
One in five cases stayed
The ACC is also facing another hurdle in dealing with the graft cases as one in every five cases is facing stay orders by the High Court.
According to the latest statistics, the proceedings of 826 cases were stayed by the courts in 2015. Of them, as many as 437 cases were filed by the ACC while 389 by the BAC.
ACC lawyer Khurshid said that the failure rate is currently much lower than what the statistics show. “The commission files appeals with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the cases they lost in the High Court,” he said.
Acknowledging the facts, ACC Secretary Abu M Mustafa Kamal said: “Our legal wing is analysing the reasons and the issues related to the poor performance. We have already identified some flaws and are trying to get a proper analysis so that the problems can be solved.”
Kamal, however, claimed that the conviction rate in cases filed by ACC had risen to 49.2% as of August from 37% in 2015, after they had started addressing the problems.