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Political Privileges Induce Govt Employees to Corruption in Every Sector

Op-Ed 2024-07-04, 1:16am

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Dr. Mohd Mizanur Rahman



Government employees often secure their positions through political connections rather than merit, leading to a lack of competence and accountability

By Dr Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, PhD 

Dhaka, 1st July, 2024 – Political corruption is a pervasive issue in many countries, and Bangladesh is no exception. The intertwining of political power and corrupt practices has deeply entrenched corruption within various sectors of the country.  Corruption has insidiously permeated every Government Sector in the labyrinth of Bangladesh's political landscape, privileging government employees to indulge in unethical practices with impunity. This endemic issue, deeply rooted in the nation's governance, has far-reaching consequences, impeding progress and undermining public trust. The causes of this widespread corruption are multifaceted, ranging from weak institutional frameworks to a lack of accountability and transparency.

The roots of political corruption in Bangladesh can be traced back to its post-independence era. Following the independence from Pakistan in 1971, the country has experienced political instability, military coups, and fluctuating governance. Such instability has created an environment where political patronage and favouritism became common practices. Government positions and benefits were often distributed based on loyalty rather than merit, laying the groundwork for systemic corruption.

In Bangladesh, political corruption often begins at the highest levels of government, where politicians leverage their power for personal gain. This trickles down to the bureaucracy, where government employees, emboldened by the lack of oversight, engage in corrupt activities. The intertwining of politics and corruption creates a fertile ground for nepotism, favouritism, and patronage, enabling government officials to exploit their positions for financial benefits.

One of the primary causes of corruption among government employees is the weakness of institutional frameworks. Regulatory bodies and anti-corruption agencies are often undermined by political influence, rendering them ineffective. These institutions lack the autonomy and resources necessary to hold corrupt officials accountable, allowing malpractices to flourish unchecked.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Bangladesh, for instance, has been criticized for its inability to prosecute high-profile cases effectively. Political interference and bureaucratic red tape stymie the ACC's efforts, making it difficult to bring corrupt officials to justice. Consequently, government employees operate with a sense of impunity, knowing that the likelihood of facing repercussions is minimal.

Another significant factor contributing to corruption is the lack of accountability and transparency in government operations. The absence of stringent auditing and monitoring mechanisms creates opportunities for embezzlement and bribery. Government employees often manipulate records and engage in fraudulent activities without fear of detection.

Public procurement, a sector notorious for corruption, exemplifies this issue. Contracts are frequently awarded to companies with political connections, bypassing competitive bidding processes. This lack of transparency not only leads to inflated costs and substandard work but also erodes public trust in the government's ability to manage resources effectively.

In Bangladesh, corruption has become so pervasive that it is often culturally accepted. This normalization of corrupt practices stems from a historical context where bribery and patronage were commonplace. Over time, these practices have become entrenched, making it challenging to shift societal attitudes towards integrity and ethical behaviour.

Government employees, influenced by this cultural milieu, may view corruption as a means to supplement their income, especially given the low salaries in the public sector. The pressure to meet financial demands in a rapidly growing economy further exacerbates the propensity for corrupt behaviour.

Political patronage and nepotism are key drivers of corruption in Bangladesh. Government employees often secure their positions through political connections rather than merit, leading to a lack of competence and accountability. Once in office, these employees feel beholden to their political benefactors, engaging in corrupt activities to maintain their jobs and ensure continued support.

This patronage system creates a vicious cycle, where corruption begets more corruption. Government employees, aware that their positions are tied to political favour, are less likely to act ethically or report corrupt activities, perpetuating a culture of impunity.

Economic pressures and low salaries also contribute significantly to corruption among government employees. The disparity between the cost of living and public sector wages drives many officials to seek alternative income sources. Bribery, kickbacks, and embezzlement become viable means to bridge this gap, leading to widespread corruption.

Furthermore, the lack of a robust social safety net exacerbates this issue. Government employees, concerned about their financial security and that of their families, may resort to corrupt practices as a means of survival. This economic vulnerability underscores the need for comprehensive reforms in public sector compensation and social welfare systems.

Addressing the pervasive corruption in Bangladesh requires a multifaceted approach, targeting both the symptoms and root causes of the issue. Strengthening institutional frameworks is paramount. Anti-corruption agencies must be granted the autonomy and resources needed to function effectively, free from political interference. Implementing robust auditing and monitoring mechanisms can enhance transparency and accountability in government operations.

Promoting a culture of integrity and ethical behaviour is equally crucial. This can be achieved through public awareness campaigns, educational programs, and stringent enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Encouraging whistleblowers and protecting them from retaliation can also play a pivotal role in uncovering and addressing corrupt practices.

Economic reforms, including fair compensation for government employees and a comprehensive social safety net, are essential to reduce the financial pressures that drive corruption. By addressing the economic vulnerabilities of public sector workers, the government can create an environment where integrity is valued over illicit gains.

The scourge of political corruption in Bangladesh privileges government employees to engage in corrupt activities, undermining the nation's progress and eroding public trust. Addressing this issue requires a concerted effort to strengthen institutional frameworks, enhance transparency and accountability, and promote a culture of integrity. Only through comprehensive reforms and a steadfast commitment to ethical governance can Bangladesh hope to overcome the pervasive corruption that plagues its government and society.