Officials at the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) have got demoralised after the announcement of the Anti Corruption Commission (Amendment) Act 2013, curbing its much-needed power to stamp out all-pervasive corruption from society.
During a visit to the Commission’s head office here on Sunday, the UNB correspondent found many officials simply sitting idle in their desks as they have got frustrated with the latest amendment, which has made their fight against graft harder.
What worries them most is the provision inserted in the Act providing for 2-5 years’ of jail for the inquiry officers if they fail to prove their charges against graft suspects in the court.
Official sources said the office of the ACC chairman received only four files from inquiry and investigation officials in the last a week compared to 150-200 before the passage of the ACC (Amendment) Act 2013.
An ACC deputy director who spoke on condition of anonymity told UNB that as the new law inserts a harsher provision for the ACC inquiry officers, no one now wants to file cases against graft suspects in their strategic move to protect themselves from legal hassles.
ACC inquiry officers now intend to submit only ‘final reports’, not to file any case on graft allegation as they have to serve 2-5 years’ jail in case of their failure to prove the graft charges in the court, he said.
Another ACC official said virtually there is no work of the Commission right now as the amendment has dampened the spirit of its staff members as it destroyed its independent status making it a dysfunctional body. “Can we call it an independent body which has no power to work on its own?” he questioned.
Frustrated, many officials suggest dissolving the ACC as it now unable to play a vital role in curbing corruption. “Its dissolution will at least help the government save some taxpayers’ money…it’s pointless to spend money on an organisation that can’t serve its purpose,” said another official, also wishing anonymity.
He wondered how the government could pass such an act that curtails the ACC power and promotes corruption, reneging on its election pledge in 2008.
The Awami League in its election manifesto in 2008 said, “The institutions of the State will be made more effective along with the independent and strong Anti Corruption Commission for curbing corruption.”
On November 10, Parliament passed the ‘ACC (Amendment) Bill 2013’, making it mandatory for taking prior government approval to file corruption cases against public servants.
The President on November 20 gave his assent to the Bill despite widespread protests and ignoring a request by the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
The ACC (Amendment) Act 2013 included a new provision in the section 32 of the ACC Act 2004 under which the Commission must follow the Rule 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) against a judge, magistrate or a civil servant.
According to the Rule 197 of the CrPC, when any person who is a judge within the meaning of section 19 of the Penal Code, or when any magistrate, or when any public servant who is not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the government, is accused of any offence alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty, no court shall take cognisance of such offence except with the prior government sanction.
In the Anti Corruption Commission Act 2004, the ACC was empowered to give prior approval for filing such a case.