According to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Chairman Iqbal Mahmood, the commission will not exempt anyone involved in corruption and is actively working towards ensuring punishment for those who are. As the commission celebrates its anniversary today, the ACC Chairman talked about the commission’s plight to prevent corruption and more, in an interview with DhakaTribune’s Mamun Abdullah
What has been the outcome of the ACC recommending certain government and non-government organizations to eliminate alleged corruption?
We have identified 28 organizations that require reforming and have sent recommendations to 13 of these institutions through relevant ministries. However, such widespread reformation is not easy. We have sent our recommendations to the cabinet where all ministers have admired them. We believe that if the recommendations are implemented, it will benefit the general public. Social change is not easy and it takes time -- we cannot expect things to change so quickly.
An example of the commission’s good work can be that, previously, we used to receive 30 to 40 complaints daily on average but the number has gone up to almost 250 complaints every day. This proves that people are now conscious and aware. They fear about associating themselves with illegal activities which is why the level of corruption has decreased. This is illustrated by the number of graft cases going down in recent times.
The current government’s drive against corruption and that of the ACC usually reveal that most of the accused are politicians. How does ACC plan to tackle it?
Actually, there is no relation between ACC’s actions and that of the government. Rather, we receive the information through the media about the government’s drives. Therefore, the media is the bridge between the government and the commission. We tend to work according to our individual mandate.
We do not interrogate anyone out of our mandate while the government can arrest anyone charged with allegations. But if a government employee or any individual is involved in money-laundering or the amassing of illegal wealth, the ACC will then take action against them. Sometimes we are informed by various departments of the government and at times, we do not receive the information.
Are you planning to file cases against any political figure?
We do not consider anyone differently, be it politicians, businessmen or government employees. We only consider whether one has committed the crime or not, and nothing more than that. Besides, the ACC conducts its investigations impartially.
We do not share names and details regarding cases that are being investigated since there is a possibility that someone might show bias. After all, we are human beings.
How do you think the current government’s stance on corruption can help the ACC?
Corruption is a universal problem. Even in foreign countries, one will find that without political commitment, they cannot reduce corruption. The commitment must not come only from the government, but all political parties.
We want all political parties to take a stance against corruption. Without a collective effort, it is impossible to eliminate corruption. However, we are encouraged by the government’s actions. We are under pressure from the government, society, and media. The ACC has the ability and mandate that will help it to achieve success in this regard.
Is it true that the ACC has prepared an internal list of corrupt high-profile government employees and members of the current cabinet? When will ACC take action?
Basically, it will take a lot of time to take action. We cannot say the exact number of people or names on the list. The number may increase in the coming days. We are hopeful that this will warn the corrupted and will convince them to stop associating themselves with illegal activities. We believe that it will reduce the level of corruption. Furthermore, we are urging people to work ethically and adhering to high levels of morality.
Do you think ACC has failed in its endeavours?
I talked to the Director-General (DG) and all deputy directors to tell them that, despite working for a considerable period of time, the ACC failed to meet the expectations of the general public. The ACC must not shy away from admitting its failure.
Why doesn’t the ACC seize the most influential people who have allegations of corruption against them?
The media can also be brave and publish the names of powerful people who engage in corruption. Why does it always have to be the ACC’s responsibility?
How will you justify the commission’s activities?
We are working. But the fact is that we cannot cater to all public demands. Although the ACC has left behind the tag of a “toothless tiger” but it is miles away from meeting the expectations of the general public. The reality is that we are still failing to identify the huge levels of corruption. We do not get enough information of corruption about the powerful who engage in corruption. It is among our lackings and I confess it.
As the ACC celebrates its anniversary today, I would like to make it clear to the people of the country -- we do not ignore any incidents that fall within our mandate. Rather, we are not impartial when we do not arrest or release anyone. I want to say that, we need to work together to stop corruption.
Corruption is in our minds. Therefore, we must change our mindset in order to prevent it. History indicates that if we fail to do it, corruption will never end.
The ACC is now grooming the minds of children by imparting quality education as well as developing a sense of moral values in them. If children are given proper education, they will not grow up to become corrupt.