Anti Corruption Commission and Political Government: An Evaluation of Awami League Regime (2009-2012)


Nurul Huda Sakib*

Abstract: Public institutions in third world countries are being used by the ruling government to fulfill their political goal. The Anti corruption Commission in Bangladesh is one of such institution. Since its initiation the ACC was used as a tool to suppress the opposition. To keep these issues in mind, this paper attempts to draw the role of the Anti Corruption Commission under the present Awami League government regime. In doing so, first it unveil some of the major loopholes of the Anti Corruption Act 2004. It also discusses the initial challenges and the major steps taken by the caretaker government and the Awami League government to make it an effective organization. Later, it argues the corruption scenario under the present Awami League government and the role of the ACC in this regime. In conclusion it also argued how we can make the ACC as a viable organization to curve corruption from society.

Keywords: Corruption, ACC, Political Government, Awami League.


Corruption is a major impediment to development and democratic governance. It weakens the key institutions of the national integrity system, and prevents the rule of law. Corruption erodes public trust in government, and breeds injustice. Corruption is also increasingly linked to violation of human rights and spread of the culture of impunity. A survey in 2003, found that nearly half of the respondents indicated that the level of corruption has increased over the preceding year. On the other hand, the economic impact of corruption in Bangladesh is also enormous. It has been estimated that if Bangladesh could reduce its corruption level to those prevailing in countries with a reputation for honest dealing, it could add between 2.1 and 2.9 percent to annual per capita GDP growth. This would contribute to a sustainable reduction in poverty. Because of corruption and mismanagement in police administration, judiciary, health sector, education, etc., people begin to lose their confidence on government day by day.

From 2001 to 2005 for the successive five years Bangladesh earned the unenviable distinction of topping the most corrupt country of the world in the survey of Transparency International (TI). The major two political parties of the country restored to mudslinging against each other and made the issue as political agenda instead of unitedly addressing the national problem. Due to the endless failure of the Bureau of Anti Corruption (BAC) and as a part of election manifesto, government of the day BNP led four party alliances, established so-called Independent Anti- Corruption Commission (IACC) in 2004. But the sudden change of 11th January 2007 unsettled all scheme. Since then, a lot of institutional steps were taken to make ACC effective for combating corruption. The present Awami League (AL) backed grand alliance came to power after a national election held in December 2008 during which control of corruption was one of the key demands for which the people raised their voice almost as a national consensus. It was also reflected in the election manifesto of the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and its Grand Alliance that returned to power with unprecedented majority in the Parliament. In this context, this paper will try to argue the role and activities of the ACC under the present government whether political government performed well in lieu of semi-authoritarian or other than Awami League. For that, attempts to compare with military back Caretaker (2006-2008) were made to distinguish the role of two separate regimes.

The ACC: Initiation, Challenges and Major Steps

Taking corruption as a one of the major impediments for the development, the major political parties of the country give priority to reduce corruption in their every election manifesto. In accordance with their election promise, when BNP led alliance came to power in 2001, it established the ACC in 2004. The enormous pressure of the donors and the civil society was also noticeable. Although ACC appeared as a replacement of BAC, it could not progress further since then. Because, the ACC inherited from the BAC twenty thousand unsolved cases and initiated its journey. During the first two and half years of existence, the commission could hardly do anything significant to contain corruption. Further the commission had to face numerous challenges like conflict between the chairman and the two commissioners, the quality and physical strength of the chairman and the commissioners and their impartiality. Besides, the Commission was under pressure to regularize all 1231 employee of the non-defunct Bureau, though some of the stuffs were accused of immeasurable corruption. There were also many loopholes in the Act of 2004 which in any case makes the Commission subjected to financial and administrative control of the Government:

  1. The bill made it clear that, for appointing a commissioner five member screening committee is to be constituted. The persons selected should have at least twenty years of experience in law, education, administration, judicial service or in defense services. The weakness of the ordinance is that, emphasis was given only on experience rather than specifying the area of experience.
  2. There is no exclusive court or judge for adjudication of anti-corruption cases. As a result, judicial procedures were to be undertaken by special judges whose appointment, transfer, increment and up-gradation were determined by the law ministry.
  3. Article 23 of the bill showed that, there was no time limit to take action against an incriminated person. In matter of delays in taking action against a person or if the charge was dismissed by the court, there was no provision in the bill to demand trial by a higher court.
  4. Section 25 clearly makes room for dependence of the Commission on the Government for its budget and financial power.
  5. Article 30 clearly states that the Commission’s organizational structure and budget will be determined by the Government.
  6. The Law under Article 36 gives the Government the authority to provide “guidance of direction” through clarifications or explanation, in cases of vagueness in the provisions of the law regarding the Commission’s authority and responsibility.
  7. ACC had the right to inquire into some criminal activities under two laws; one is under the protection law and the other is under the Penal Code. Many of the penalizing criminal activities were scheduled under Penal Code. For example, any false statement given as witness under the law or any use of such false statement for illegal purpose or criminal activities, the matter may be brought before the ACC. Further, offences relating to passport, money laundering and foreign investment related criminal activities had not been taken into consideration in the schedule of the bill.
  8. Another major flaw in the Act is its opacity in relation to the status of the Chairman and other Members of the Commission. Section 13 of the Act simply provides that the Government shall determine the honorarium, allowances and other benefits of the Chairman and the Commissioners.

Apart from the legal flaw, there are also unlawful, dishonest motives of the politicians, who made the commission inactive. We hardly imagine that there is any other way we could escape from it. But, the ‘Caretaker Government’ that took over power after 11 January 2007 took initiatives to reconstitute ACC and to make it effective one. They took many brave initiatives to make the ACC accountable, impartial and effective to the mass people. At first, a seven member Advisory Council Committee was formed through a gazette notification of the cabinet division. However the question of its legitimacy was raised in the court and the court consolidated the status of ACC through its verdict. An official notification mentioned that the statutes of the ACC would be determined as ‘independent, self-governing and impartial’ instead of ‘independent and impartial’ in relation to Section 3(2) of the ACC Act 2004. Besides, investigation of money laundering has also been given to the ACC. Thus, the Act proves that both public and private servants can be taken into account. The Commission issued Anti-corruption Rules 2007, which enhanced its power one step further to combat corruption in the country. Another significant milestone for the Commission was Bangladesh’s accession to the UN Convention against Corruption, on February 27, 2007 (Begum and Sakib, 2010: 100). But, the two years of the CTG rule initiated some political reforms, which they termed as a “doctrine of necessity”. Later such political reforms diverted to “minus two” formula. As result the ACC was used to suppress politics and politician instead of curbing corruption. They promised corruption free society and political reforms to justify their rule and to these objectives, used all institutions of the state under the emergency rule. There was no human right, no politics, and no vote for two long years. The prices of essentials made the life of the people miserable. After lots of drama, “minus two” became “manage two” formula. On 29th December 2008, when the Awami League backed Grand Alliance came to power, a lot of question has been raised about role of the ACC during the ‘Caretaker Government’ period 2007-’08. It is criticized that, unlike the earlier governments, this CTG used the ACC as a tool to repress the politicians. Thus the question that aims will the ACC is able to work freely under this political regime? Or it will work as a tool of the present political government to contain its political opponents.

The Corruption Scenario under Present Government

It is axiomatic that Bangladesh has become a fertile ground of “corruption” since its independence. All public institutions starting from secretariats to their divisions and branches nationwide, law enforcement agencies, tax and customs administration, banking systems, public corporations, utility services like gas, electricity, telephone and water supply are plagued by default and bribery. Majority of nation’s population have become victims of corruption and the poor suffers its astringent burdens to the worst. In TI’s survey from 2001 to 2005, Bangladesh was listed as the most corrupt country by achieving lowest CPI scores. Although, from 2006 the performance of Bangladesh in TI’s CPI score index improved slightly, but could not came out from the tentacle of corruption.

Table 1: Bangladesh’s Rank in TI Score List from 2001 – 2012.


Rank (in order of most corrupted country)

CPI Score

(out of 100)

Number of Surveyed Countries

















































Source: Transparency International Bangladesh (Prepared by the author from TIB report.)

As per TI study report, the dynamics of corruption in Bangladesh is being measured by various sources, including the World Bank. These reports suggest that corruption has a substantial negative effect on the Bangladesh’s GDP and per capita income. According to Transparency International Global Corruption Report 2009, despite the adoption of the Public Procurement Act 2006 and the Ordinance in 2007, the private sector has reportedly continued to engage in malpractices in the procurement process (Global Corruption Report, 2009). Another study made by World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report reviled that the level of public trust of politicians is very low because of inefficient government bureaucracy, inadequate access to financing policy instability (WEFGC Report, 2009-2010: 247-252). Besides, business executives surveyed in the World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010, perceive government administrative requirements to be quite burdensome. Moreover, business executives also report that government policy-making is fairly opaque and that government officials usually favor well-connected companies and individuals when deciding on policies and contracts (WEFGC Report, 2009-2010: 247-252). The World Bank & IFC Doing Business 2010 opined the regulatory environment in Bangladesh has become relatively more burdensome for companies since the 2007-2008 year. Entrepreneurs can expect to go through 7 procedures and spend 44 days at a cost equal to 36.2 % of GNI per capita on average to start a company. However, the country is reported to be performing relatively worse in this area compared to the 2007-2008 period, and continuing regulatory constraints on trade include high tariffs, inefficient and corrupt customs, and a relatively low level of international market integration compared to other countries in the region (IFC Doing Business, 2010).

On the other hand, Business Executives survey in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010, reviewed that the judiciary is not independent of political influences of the members of government, citizens or companies. The enforceability of contracts is characterized as unreliable (WEFGC Report, 2009-2010: 247-252). It is common to include an arbitration clause in commercial contracts, as Bangladesh is a member of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory and contracting state of the New York Convention 1958. The enforcement of IPR is insufficient and few sentences have been made in relation to a large number of infringements. In the lower courts, where cases are first heard, corruption is perceived as a severe problem. Against the backdrop, ACC is trying to maintain the level and intensify of corrupt transaction in public corruption. An examination will be drawn from measuring activities of the ACC.

ACC Activities under Political Government of Combating Corruption
The present political government has passed more than four years but could not do anything significant against anti corruption movement. Still the extent of corruption in public sector is very much overt. The dynamism of the ACC has reduced significantly amidst of and the government interference into the ACC has created a lot of debate in the country. Yet, it is not an independent body as a result it has become a toothless tiger, whereas the nails that it could use were now being chopped off. As a result, the ACC could not function properly and remain as like as earlier BAC. For instance, a 2010 World Bank report stated the government undermined the ACC’s work and hampered the prosecution of corruption. The report stated that the government filed far fewer corruption cases than had the previous caretaker government and that a government commission recommended that the ACC drop thousands of corruption cases. Some in civil society stated that the government was not serious about fighting corruption and that the ACC was used for politically motivated prosecutions. Transparency International Bangladesh asserted that political interference in the ACC’s operations had rendered it an ineffective institution (Human Rights Reports: Bangladesh, 2012)[1]. It was proved in the Padma Bridge conspiracy case against former communication minister Syeed Abul Hossain and graft charge against former railway minister Suranjit Sengupta. The ACC’s role in these two cases was much debated as the ACC fail to open an investigation on both the occasions.

But the role of the ACC under political government is very important. Apparently both in industrialized democracies and in the developing world, political parties are often seen as part of the corruption problem. Discourses on corruption and anti-corruption strategies have identified parties as key actors who abuse their powerful positions in the political system. The redistribution of public assets, which is a necessary part of democratic transition, is often disturbed by corruption. Long-term high-level corruption may also provide a powerful incentive for political parties to secure political power, thus producing authoritarian regimes, one-party monopoly states, and non-democratic governments. In some cases political government use the anti corruption agencies to suppress the opposition or might make existing governments more resistant to further democratization. There are mainly two factors which led the anti corruption agencies to get involved in corrupt practice:

  1. Most importantly is the lack of institutionalism. In the third world countries, where state institutions are not so organized, corrupt practice is tends to occur frequently. In such cases, government is likely to control the Anti Corruption Commission through various rules and regulation such as controlling the funding. Thus it hampers its independence.
  2. In Bangladesh people also struggles to cover up various socio-economic problems like poverty, education, health, over population, low income etc. Such barrier complexes the entire scenario. Besides, the public sector salary and incentive are very low. So public officials get them involved in corrupt practices and began to work for the ruling party.

So far the role of the ACC in Bangladesh is very critical. In 2004, the ACC was created with so many expectations that it might reduce corruption in the public sector. But people’s expectation soon came into dust when the ACC was being used as to repress the opposition. In the 1/11 drama in the politics of Bangladesh, the caretaker government also used the ACC to suppress the politicians. After the drama in 2009, the present AL led alliance government came to power with huge amount of mandate to curve corruption. The activity of the ACC the under present regime is discussed;

Social Movement against Corruption

Combating corruption cannot be possible without social movement. Taking it into as a serious concern the ACC, therefore, formed “Corruption Prevention Committees” at the district and sub-district district levels. These committees are undertaking various activities for public awareness building against corruption. In 2010, these committees were reconstituted and scope of their work was clearly defined to reinvigorate their activities. Particularly, these committees were given responsibility of forming “Satata Sanga” in educational institutions to mobilize the youth against corruption and for their character building with the motto, “Honesty is the best policy.” For organizing people against corruption ACC has published a booklet containing verses from the holy Quran and Hadith condemning corruption for preaching in 250,000 mosques throughout the country during Friday prayers. Besides, since 2011 the ACC has also been observing “Corruption Prevention Week” from March 26 to April 1. ACC wishes to involve all segments of the society in its anti-corruption campaign and make it a social movement. Therefore, the slogan for this year’s anti-corruption week was Shobai milay lorbo durniti mukto desh gorbo. (Let’s all join hands to build a corruption-free nation) (The Daily Star, 16 April 2011).

Prosecution Status of the ACC

Since April, 2008, the ACC has completed 650 investigations and 686 inquiries while another 742 investigations and 337 inquiries are at various stages of completion. In the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 (up to 21 October) ACC lodged 701, 979, 234, 265 and 301 FIRs respectively. During 2007, on completion of investigations, ACC submitted 170 Charge Sheets and 80 Final Reports. 397 Charge Sheets and 197 Final Reports were submitted in 2008. In the year 2009 it submitted 475 Charge Sheets and 262 Final Reports. Submission of Charge Sheets and Final Reports in 2010 rose to 563 and 285 respectively. In 2011 (From January to 21 October), submission of Charge Sheets and Final Reports was 527 and 252 respectively (Rahman, 2011). Following table will give us a clear idea about prosecution status of the ACC:

Table 2: Prosecution Status of the ACC.

YEAR FIR Charge Sheets FR
2007 701 170 80
2008 979 397 197
2009 234 475 262
2010 265 563 285
2011 (January- October) 301 527 252

[Notes: Table prepared by author with the help of an ACC information official and daily newspaper The Daily Star. Data was collected in December 2011.]

In addition to pending investigations and inquiries inherited from BAC period ACC officials are now inquiring into 1,046 complaints and investigating another 760 cases of recent times. More cases were lodged during CTG than in the following two years, but submission of Charge Sheets and Final Reports to trial courts was far less (Rahman, 2011).  

Stay Order Stagnant the Prosecution

Since its inception the ACC filed 1769 corrupt case. Most of them were filed during the caretaker government. Trail of 710 cases of them were remain stagnant due to stay order from lower and higher court. According to ACC, 3700 cases are still on trail from BAC since 1980. Due to two of the present government MP’s (Habibur Rahman Mollah and Dr. Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir) case in the ACC, fate of almost 428 cases in the High Court and 67 cases in the Lower Court were stagnant due to an appeal from them (online:,). This encourages people in involving corruption. For example; verdict of one case in 1980 is still remain stagnant. This kind of syndrome is indeed a bad indication for the state in order to establish rule of law.

Politics of Anti-Corruption

The Awami League (AL) made a series of commitments to the people at the time of the election, of which more than a dozen were specific to building and strengthening the anti-corruption institutional and policy infrastructure, including the ACC. The election manifesto clearly mentioned that the “the ACC will be made powerful by ensuring its independence” (Bangladesh Awami Leauge, 2008). But the following steps contradict the present government’s commitment to people as they mentioned in the election manifesto.

Control of the Government by Imposing Amendments: To ensure transparency and accountability of the administration, the AL government formed a committee in March 2009. On April 26, 2010, the cabinet approved a set of proposals for amending the anticorruption law designed to bring the ACC under the political control of the government. The ACC will now report to the president (who acts almost entirely under advisement of the prime minister) and will need government permission before it files a case against any government official. Provisions are also made for the government to appoint the ACC’s secretary. Initiating and filing a corruption case will be much more challenging due to the stipulation that filing a false case may land an official in jail for five years. The proposals met with strong resistance from political observers, TIB and the international donor community, including the EU and the World Bank. They all believe that such political measures to control the ACC will significantly weaken it. For instance, Iftekhar Zaman, claimed that the -ACC’s accountability will be affected by political influence if it is made accountable to the president. This is because in parliamentary democracy, the president acts on all the issues in consultation with the Prime Minister (The Daily Star, 3 May 2010).The World Bank commented -Bangladesh government’s move to amend the Anti-Corruption Commission Act will weaken the independent anti-graft watchdog and undermine its ability to investigate corruption. The campaign succeeded in preventing the enactment for 19 months. The future of anti-corruption effort will depend a lot on what emerges of this attempt to undermine the authority of the Commission. Proposals include the mandatory requirement to obtain prior approval by ACC before taking action against alleged cases of corruption by the public officials.

Withdrawal of Politically Motivated Cases: In 2009, the present government began a massive plan to withdraw what it considered to be politically-motivated cases filed against politicians and others under the code of criminal procedure, regular penal code, and the Anti-Corruption Commission Act. A committee was set up under the leadership of Quamrul Islam, state minister for law, justice, and parliamentary affairs, to review applications for such cases. As of March 2010, the committee had withdrawn some 6,497 cases, including 223 cases filed by the ACC, most of which involved members of the ruling party (The Daily Star, 31 March 2010). At its first meeting the committee dropped 12 corruption cases against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as well as other cases filed against senior party leaders, known party supporters, and their relatives. The government has recommended to the courts and the ACC that they withdraw hundreds of corruption cases initiated against Awami League supporters on the grounds that they were “politically motivated” cases filed under previous governments. However, of the most similar cases against the political opposition, journalists and human rights activists, very few of them have been recommended for withdrawal.
Filed Corrupt Cases against Opposition Party Leaders: The CTG filed 20 cases against Khaleda Zia and her two son’s Tareque Zia and Arafat Rahman Koko from 2007 to 2008. Among them, 12 were against Tareque Zia and only one of them has been withdrawal by the present government (Sharma, 2008). Under the present regime the ACC filed graft case against Khaleda Zia and her family members in 2009 accused of money laundering in name of Zia Orphanage Trust. On the other hand, an inter-ministerial committee on ‘political harassment’ cases made the recommendations at its 23rd meeting, at a total of 1621 cases, including 79 of ACC, were placed for consideration. Of them, 105 were recommended for withdrawal. Not surprisingly, the committee did not withdraw any case against the opposition leaders, as they did not find any political motivation behind the cases against opposition party leaders (The Daily Star, 17 December 2009).
Corruption Conspiracy Case of Padma Bridge: The role of the ACC in Padma Bridge scandal is somewhat biased toward the government. On September 1, 2011 World Bank identified bribe exchange between Canadian company SNC Lavarian and Bangladeshi company SAHCO, which is owned by former communication minister Sayeed Abul Hossain. The World Bank already has given little information to the government about the bribe exchange and also steps up from sanction of 120 core dollar funding that they promised (Bangladesh Today, 3 December 2011). The ACC then come into action as a savior of the accused authority. The ACC would be looking for information from five short listed consultant institutions regarding the appointment process of the consultant. They also send an e-mail to these institutions stating that ‘they already started the inquiry about the appointment process. As a participatory organization, we need your help to finish the inquiry. If they have any kind of information which is contradictory to the appointment process of the consultant, might let them know within ten working days. Otherwise, we will come out a decision that there is no objection from you about the appointment process of CSC in Padma Bridge’. This kind of attitude of the ACC clearly indicates that ACC is not working for the investigation in this case rather tend to protect the corrupt people whom were behind the scene.

Concluding Remarks

Fighting corruption involves a long-term and comprehensive process. Setting up of the ACC, or even ensuring the best possible level of independence and effectiveness to it, is not the end in itself it is just the beginning and part of a process. The ACC cannot be an effective organization without the supportive environment which includes the vital institutions of the national integrity system. To make the ACC more accountable following steps should be required:

  • For reducing corruption to the minimum levels, it needs to be accorded a constitutional status like PSC or the Election Commission (EC) and the constitution should be amended towards this goal.
  • Moreover the ACC needs to operate on the basis of transparent and comprehensive legal frameworks.
  • Its manpower should be increased to deal with large number of cases and clear the back log. The ACC must have adequate powers of investigation, i.e. to question witnesses, access to documents, as well as the possibility to prosecute where required.
  • The ACC also needs to develop a coherent and holistic strategy for combating corruption, focusing on prevention, investigation and awareness rising.
  • To make the ACC more responsive to the public, its activities should be conducted in a transparent manner. Management of finance and staff should also strictly follow the standard rules and regulations.
  • One of the main reasons of closure of the Bureau was endless corruption of its own staff. It is observed that, after the formation of the ACC many of them could manage absorption and regular appointment. As such the recruitment process in the ACC is to be proper and without any bias. The officials need appropriate training so that morality bound and promise-determined manpower is created.
  • Simultaneously other institutional aspects of governance need to be strengthened. The judiciary should be free from executive intervention so that legal process can establish rule of law. The accountability structure of the officials should be strengthened so that stringent actions can be taken against those who nurse corrupt process.
  • To keep corruption at bay, procurement systems must be based on transparency, competition, and objectivity. Civil society organizations can come forward and mobilize people’s resistance movements against all sorts of corruption.
  • All government employees, ministers, Members of Parliament and politicians should declare their assets every year whether it is in their own names or in the names of family members.
  • All outdated laws preventing the people’s rights to information, including the Official Secrets Act 1923, must be abolished and the Right to Information (RTI) must be practiced to ensure transparency and free flow of information. Appointment of sector-wise ombudsmen as per article 77 of the constitution can make a difference in ensuring accountability, especially in the key sectors of public service.
  • Application of e-governance in all sectors will reduce paper work and will introduce automation that will result in a more transparent system.

As important component in the anti-corruption infrastructure is the awareness, engagement and participation of people in demanding the political will and strengthening of the institutions of accountability. The main challenge is to create an environment in which corruption would be hated and rejected by everyone, and demands and pressures will become strong enough to generate and sustain the political will and strengthen the effectiveness and independence of the key institutions including the ACC.


‘Anti-Graft Body to Lose Teeth’, The Daily Star (3 May 2010).

Bangladesh Awami League (2008),  Election Manifesto, p. 6.

Begum, T. and Sakib, N.H. (2010) ‘Combating Corruption in Bangladesh:  Role of the Anti Corruption Commission’, in Hasanuzzaman, A.L.M. (ed.) Political Management in Bangladesh, Dhaka: AH Development Publishing House, p. 260.

Global Corruption Report (2009), [Online], Available:, [14 September 2009], pp. 247-52.

‘Government not to withdraw cases against BNP leaders’, The Daily Star (31 March 2010).

IFC Doing Business Report (2010), also available at:

Rahman, G. (2009), ‘What impedes effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Commission?’, The Daily Star 17 December.

Rahman, G. (2011) ‘Make corruption prevention a social movement’, The Daily Star 16 April.

Sharma, S. (2009) ’Move to withdrawal cases against Zia’s son’, [Online] Available: [22 December 2009].

US Department of State (2013) Human Rights Reports: Bangladesh, [Online], Available: [23 April 2013]

World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (2009-2010), [Online], Available:, [8 September 2009]

Available:, [12 December 2010].

Bangladesh Today (3 December 2011).


*   Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Politics, Jahangirnagar University,Savar, Dhaka-1342, Bangladesh

[1] US Department of State (2013) Human Rights Reports: Bangladesh, [Online], Available: [ 23 April 2013]

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