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Bangladesh's defence sector at high risk of graft
Publication Date : 18-09-2013
Bangladesh is among 21 countries where the defence ministry and security agencies are at a “very high risk of corruption” due to poor monitoring and performance of parliament, said a report of Transparency International UK.
The TI UK’s Defence and Security Programme (TI-DSP) analysed the government defence anti-corruption index of 82 countries, including Bangladesh, and made recommendations on reducing corruption risks.
Among the 82 countries, 70 per cent of the largest arms importers last year left the door open to corruption, found the study.
Bangladesh scored 32 out of 100. The countries that scored between 16.7 and 33.2 have been categorised as “very high-risk countries for corruption in the defence sector”.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said bringing accountability to the defence and security sectors is the call of the hour.
“It’s especially important for Bangladesh where information about the defence sector is not available. It’s an area out of everybody’s reach, where big budget purchases have been on the rise without any discussion and debate, which is not good for democracy,” he added.
“If parliament, especially the standing committee on the ministry of defence, was unable to hold the armed forces accountable for their income and expenditure, then who else would be able to do that?” questioned the TIB executive.
In the study, Australia, Germany, Norway and the UK were the top performers with scores between 83.3 and 100, which is indicative of a very low-level corruption risk. Twelve countries scored in the range of 67.7 to 83.2 indicating a low risk of corruption due to better performance by their parliaments.
The countries that scored 50 to 66.6 have been categorised as medium risk countries, while scores between 33.3 and 49.9 of 16 countries showed a high risk of corruption.
Fourteen countries were placed at the bottom of the banding, exhibiting critical risk of corruption due to lack of legislative defence oversight. The countries are Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.
The report said parliaments and legislatures can potentially play a powerful role in reducing the risk of corruption in defence and security establishments by exercising their legislative, deliberative and oversight functions.
It also showed, through detailed case studies, how parliaments and legislatures could improve the oversight of defence.
It pointed out that many countries were not currently fulfilling their potentials. All countries, even those with high scores, have progress to make.
Transparency International called on parliamentarians to establish cross-party committees and groups of external experts to empower their scrutiny and inform their debate of defence matters.
The TI estimated the global cost of corruption in the defence sector to be a minimum of US$20 billion per year, based on data from the World Bank and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This is more than the combined international development aid provided by Canada and the UK last year.
The report made some recommendations to reduce corruption risks in the defence sector.
The suggestions include providing parliament with a full set of documents of a detailed and comprehensive defence budget and making proposals of the budget subject to parliamentary debate, approval and scrutiny.
The study proposed establishing an external audit office and ensuring audits of the defence budget and submitting reports to parliament with auditors’ inputs about them. Senior audit officials should appear before the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry of defence to answer queries by legislators.
It also recommended making the defence budget easily available for civil society and other citizens with technical and non-technical details.