It is unusual that a public official of higher or lower rank did corruption, and his boss and colleagues are unaware of it. In most cases, corruption in public institutions takes place in a syndicate. The syndicate of corrupts share the proceeds of corruption among themselves. As they all are involved in, it is possible to keep it secret and make it tough to reveal. This syndicate could be of various patterns. Sometimes this syndicate works at the top level, sometimes at lower and sometimes in a combination of both. While it constitutes within the high-ranking officials, the low ranked officers fear to question on it even if they realize that what is happening is wrong, amounts to corruption, and might pose a threat to their career if caught at any time. In this situation, they had to execute those unlawful orders of the boss against their will. On the other hand, where there is a strong syndicate among low-rank corrupt officials of an office then even if the boss is willing to keep the office corruption free, he cannot. Syndicate creates a deadlock situation in the office and tries to tarnish the image of the officer. They pressurize the boss to compromise with them and run the office as they want. In another pattern, the high and low-rank officials’ gets involve in corruption jointly. In this case, the low-rank officials used as direct bribe-taker, and the high-level officers enjoy a share of the money bribed.
The situations stated above can be better explained by some examples. A recent report shows that the highway police abusing their power take money as extortion from trucks loaded with goods on different routes. The money they are collecting is not going to the account of the government as toll but going directly into the pocket of syndicated corrupt police officials of the department. This is constantly happening, and the concerned department is well aware of this but hardly seen to take any fruitful and robust action against it. In some cases, when the police on duty caught in red-hand to the journalists of the news media only then an eye-washing disciplinary action taken against those particular officers (ex. closing and attaching them to the headquarters). However, the syndicate remains under the veil and untouched. It is said that the money collected as extortion from roads goes to officials of different level. In 2013, considering news reports on the relationship between police extortion and price hike of essential commodities, the Supreme Court in a suo moto rule ordered the authorities to prevent the extortion in the roads. But, it is unknown how the police department executed that order. However, though we see few cases of corruption in the police department exposed publicly, the annual report of the Transparency International Bangladesh found that the law enforcing agencies (including police) are as the most corrupt sector of Bangladesh in 2017.When it comes to the matter of corruption at low-rank officials, we find that corrupt Abzal’s story has broken all the previous record. His case also reflects a pattern that stated above. In this case, we see that being a low-rank official of the department of health, Abzal made a huge wealth by corruption. It is reported in different media that he was able to ensure the recruitment of at least seven of his close relatives, including his wife in the same department in different positions. He positioned them in different low-rank posts to create a strong and reliable network for corruption. Based on the syndicate, though was a low-ranked officer, he turned into such an influential figure in his office that procurement order and tenders were issued to his company operated in his wife’s name. He was using luxury vehicles, but no one pointed finger on it. It has happened because he was not the only official taking the benefit of the corruption; rather, he was sharing the benefit with all possible challengers to keep their mouth shut and making them as member of his chain.
On corruption at the top level of an institution, the best example we have is bank scams. We all know about the grand corruption in several public and private banks since 2012. It started with Sonali Bank scam after that Basic Bank and Janata Bank scam revealed, and the most recent discovery is the Farmer’s Bank scam, in all cases the loan sanctioned to the frauds based on forged documents. The frauds have opened companies in different names. They provided wrong and false information about the property they mortgaged against the loan. The banks without properly scrutinizing papers and property made the loan available to the frauds. To loot public money, frauds used corrupt bank officials of high ranks to overcome the complicated loan procedure and received thousands of crore in short time violating relevant banking laws. Now due to these scams, some banks are facing so terrible consequence that they are failing to fully recover the landed money even after selling all the mortgaged properties of those companies. Moreover, the additional problem is that the people are not expressing interest to buy these properties in the auction. These scams happened because the frauds were successful in influencing the corrupt high officials. Also, it is easily understandable that these forms of grand corruptions are possible only when the high officials create syndicate to favour fraudsters.
Nowadays, the government often says that it has taken the policy of ‘zero-tolerance’ against all sort of corruption. In my view, if the government really wants to address the problem of corruption effectively, priority must be given in breaking the syndicate of corrupts in different government institutions.
The writer is an MPhil candidate at South Asian University, New Delhi.