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Conflicts of interest abound in formation of JS standing committees

Special Correspondent Nation 2024-02-11, 10:20pm


Conflicts of interest in forming JS committees

Dhaka, Feb 11 - No member shall be appointed to a parliamentary committee whose personal, financial or direct interest is connected with matters which may be considered by the committee.
This is stated in the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament.But, at least 20 out of 50 parliamentary standing committees in the current parliament have been formed with members giving rise to conflicts of interest. The work of the parliamentary committee is to examine the bills, report and review, and investigate irregularities and serious complaints about the work of the ministries under the committee.The Parliament recently formed all the 50 standing committees to ensure the accountability and transparency of the activities of different ministries concerned.But many members of the committees have business in the respective sectors which can cause conflicts of interest.This was found while analysing the affidavits of MPs submitted to the Election Commission during the January 7 national election.There are 39 standing committees related to the ministries and there are possibilities of taking place of conflict of interest as MPs who are members of those committees are involved in business in the respective sectors.Of the 39 watchdogs, 12 MPs who were ministers and state ministers in the immediate past cabinet of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, were made chairman of JS committees on the related ministries.Former commerce minister Tipu Munshi was made chairman of the Standing Committee on commerce ministry.In his affidavit, he mentioned his profession as a businessman in the garments sector.Other members of the committee -- Sheikh Helal Uddin, Sheikh Afil Uddin, Shariful Islam Jinnah, Mahmud Hasan and Sultana Nadira are also businesspersons.AK Abdul Momen, who was foreign minister, was made chairman of the JS body on foreign ministry.Former finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal was made the chief of the committee on the finance ministry.Likewise, former textiles and jute minister Golam Dastgir Gazi, former land minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury, former planning minister MA Mannan, former agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque, former fisheries minister SM Rezaul Karim, former state minister for CHT affairs Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, former minister for Expatriates' Welfare Imran Ahmed, former state minister for Housing Sharif Ahmed, former state minister for youth Zahid Ahsan Russel were made chairs of the JS bodies on the respective ministries they served.A member of the standing committee on ministry of labor, Shamim Osman owns a garment industry named Wisdom Knitting Mills while another member of the committee SM Al Mamun is involved in the shipbreaking business.Golam Kibria Tipu, a member of the parliamentary standing committee on shipping, is the owner of Tipu Launch.Nizam Uddin Hazari is a member of the parliamentary watchdog on the ministry of expatriates' welfare. He is involved in the manpower export business.Abdur Rauf was made a member of the standing committee on the ministry of power, energy and mineral resources. He owns a petrol pump.Mohammad Ali was made a member of the standing committee on LGRD ministry. He is a contractor by profession.Chief whip Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury told UNB the former ministers were made chairmen of the committees as they have work experience in the ministry and they can use their experience to make the parliamentary committee dynamic."There are many businesses, anyone can do business. It should be seen whether they are doing business with the government or not," he said.Transparency International Bangladesh Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said that in a parliament almost totally controlled by the ruling party, the prospect of effectiveness of the Standing Committees is in any case utopian, if anything.“Nevertheless, the formation of the Committees could have reflected a bit more of political acumen to avoid the potentially crippling effects of conflict of interest,” he added.He also mentioned that chairmanship or even simple membership of former Ministers in the committee of the same ministry will be the most obvious predicament against any prospect of independent and objective committee work in case of allegations of corruption or other irregularities of the ministry during the former minister’s tenure.The members having business interests in the subject matter of the committees will most likely use the position to capture the proceedings in their own business interest rather than serving the committee objective meaningfully, he said.