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Bribes in Bangladesh: Up to 10% of project funds

Publication Date : 26-05-2014


Bribe, nepotism and political influence are at play in almost all activities of local government institutions, according to a study of Transparency International Bangladesh.

With corruption apparently institutionalised, the local bodies -- from union parishad to city corporation -- bribe officials of different ministries up to 10 per cent of project funds for their approval.

They give 5,000 Bangladesh taka (US$64) to 80,000 taka ($1,030) in bribe as well as gifts to audit officials for preparing reports in their favour.

Moreover, municipality mayors bribed ministry officials 2 milllion taka ($25,800) to have their honoraria increased, says the study conducted between February 2013 and May this year.

TIB researchers Farhana Rahman and Rabiul Islam presented the study --Local government sector: challenges of good governance and ways out -- at a discussion in the capital's Brac Centre Inn.

The study says 35.7 per cent of households surveyed fell victim to irregularities in obtaining different certificates, including those for citizenship, and birth and death registration. On average, they paid 94 taka beyond the government-set fees.

Similarly, 35.8 per cent households gave bribes to get included in social safety net programmes, and of those, 50.4 per cent paid a bribe of 1,048 taka on average, says the study.

Many households get included in social safety net programmes because of political influence and nepotism, said Rabiul.

At least 34.1 per cent households have to give a bribe of 4,521 taka on average for settling disputes through arbitration, the TIB says.

In order to get work orders, contractors bribe ruling party men 10-15 per cent of the allocated money. They also give bribes to government officials to get payments for completed work.

“Contractors are even paid against fake projects or before completion of their work,” said Rabiul.

In case of Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction projects, some 15-20 per cent of the funds are misappropriated through collusion among mayors, executive engineers and town managers, the study shows.

In city corporations and municipalities, officials embezzle part of the cleaners' wages and take bribes for supplying water illegally.

Drivers steal fuel from waste carriers, while employees misappropriate money through fake bills for repairing office vehicles.

Apart from these irregularities, local government bodies suffer from a number of institutional weaknesses.

Forty per cent of posts in municipalities and 20 per cent in district councils remain vacant. Besides, there are delays in releasing allocated funds for projects.

“In case of recruitment and posting, local bodies have to depend fully on the government,” Rabiul said.

At least 23 per cent of union parishads and 29 per cent of upazila parishads have no permanent offices, and lack necessary logistics.

The standing committees at union and upazila parishads also remain inactive, says the corruption watchdog.

Ruling party ministers and lawmakers have total control over project approval and special allocations.

Appointment of bureaucrats, instead of elected representatives, as district council and city corporation administrators remains a major barrier to strengthening local government bodies, says the TIB.

Local government expert Dr Tofael Ahmed said the projects at local level are not well-planned.

The projects are designed in such a way that they involve less than 200,000 taka each and there is no need for floating tenders, he said.

TIB Trustee Board Member M Hafizuddin Khan said the poor, mostly in rural areas, are deprived of services due to massive corruption.

He suggested reinstating the Local Government Commission to coordinate all activities of local bodies, and reduce the control of the government.

Mashiur Rahman Ranga, state minister for LGRD and cooperatives, said he had taken note of the TIB findings and would take steps to check corruption and make the local government bodies more efficient.

“Local government institutions have to be more independent financially,” he said.

Salahuddin M Aminuzzaman, professor at Dhaka University, said the study should have focused either on urban or rural government institutions to avoid generalisation.

The TIB made 18 recommendations that include reviewing related laws, enhancing skills of the staff and keeping lawmakers away from local development work.

DU Professor Zarina Rahman Khan also spoke at the discussion moderated by TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.


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