Saturday, December 10, 2011

Country mired in unacceptable level of corruption

When the nation is gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary and pay respect to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to give birth to the country, it is rather disappointing to find out the degree to which the country is mired in corruption. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Saturday, a number of major development projects are not being implemented because of serious allegations of corruption. The case of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge is well known, where the World Bank, the largest lender in the project, suspended funding, alleging corruption involving the immediate-past communications minister. The minister’s private company allegedly coerced many bidders to hire them as paid ‘silent agent.’ Likewise, the 450MW Siddhirganj power project has been put out to fresh tender after the Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh awarded the tender to a disqualified company, a client of the former communication minister’s company. The 200–300MW power plant at Ghorashal is also uncertain after two rounds of bidding as, once again, Abul Hossain’s client could not offer the lowest price. Furthermore, the water resources ministry had tried to give the job of manufacturing and supplying two sets of dredgers involving Tk 140 crore to a disqualified company before the cabinet committee rejected the proposal. Meanwhile, the Tk 904 crore project to widen the Dhaka–Mymensingh Highway has also become uncertain as one of the bidders, who obtained part of the job, turns out to have submitted forged documents.

Firstly, a note on Abul Hossain. The former communications minister, on his own, seems to have dipped his hands into half the corruption scandals the incumbents have been mired in, and why the minister had to be rehabilitated with a new portfolio, that of information and communications technology, defies all possible explanation. It may very well be a face-saving exercise to defiantly prop up the image of the government, or may be, the ruling party owes much in partisan favour to this lone lawmaker. Transferring the minister may remove him from the spotlight for now; the people of the country, however, deserve a thorough investigation and inquiry of each and every one of the allegations surrounding him and an explanation for the delay these allegations caused to nationally-important projects.

The former communications minister, however, is the current poster boy for a malaise that has been eating away at the Bangladeshi society for long. Starting from being ranked the most corrupt country in the corruption perception index of the Transparency International, to high rankings in the corruption perception surveys on the various agencies of the state, corruption has caused much ignominy to this nation on the eve of its 40th birthday. The onus now falls upon the ruling party, the Awami League, which also presided over the final throes of the liberation struggle against the Pakistanis, to rid the nation of the malaise which threatens to usurp the fruits of its liberty. And to do that, a thorough investigation into the allegations of corruption in such nationally-important projects, as well meting out exemplary punishment, is very much in order.