Despite the government’s zero-tolerance policy on corruption, the graft suspects are getting acquitted in corruption cases filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) with a fall in the conviction rate for lack of skilled prosecutors.
The ACC data shows that the conviction rate in the ACC cases came down to 60 percent in 2021 from 72 percent in 2020.
ACC officials, lawyers and anti-graft campaigners have blamed lack of evidence, weak inquiry reports, excessive haste in filing cases and submitting charge sheets, and legal loopholes for the poor conviction rate.
In 2004, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was abolished and the ACC was formed aiming to strengthen the fight against graft. But the situation has not improved significantly.
Asked, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told the Daily Sun that though slightly decreased, the conviction rate is at the satisfactory level in graft cases.
“We’re trying our level best to prove charges against the accused but the court is giving punishment analysing the evidence and the conviction depends on the merit of the cases,” he said.
Khurshid said the ACC is giving highest importance to every single case and is trying to place credible evidence in related suits before the court so that no real offenders can go unpunished.
the rate of conviction shows an upward trend while the rate declines when the court doesn’t find enough credible evidence,” he said.
Emphasis is being laid on enhancing expertise and efficiency of the ACC prosecutors and investigators to this end, said the Supreme Court lawyer.
The annual ACC report shows that the conviction rate in corruption cases filed by the national anti-graft body declined to 60 percent in 2021 against 72 percent in 2020. Some 203 cases out of total 3,434 were disposed of in 2021 but the commission had been able to prove allegations in 119 cases.
On average, the conviction rate was 58 percent in 2021 in graft cases. Of them, the conviction rate was 60 percent in the cases filed by the ACC while it was only 30 percent in the cases filed by the ACB.
In 2020, a total of 176 cases were disposed of, out of 3,382, where the commission had been able to prove the allegations in 121 cases. On average, the conviction rate was 68.75 percent.
Of them, the conviction rate was 72 percent in the cases filed by the ACC while it was 48 percent in ACB cases.
ACC data showed that the conviction rate was 63 percent in 2019, 63 percent in 2018, 68 percent in 2017, 35 percent in 2016 and 37 percent in 2015.
Earlier, the anti-graft agency lost legal battle in 80 percent cases in 2011, 68 percent in 2012, 63 percent in 2013 and 54 percent in 2014.
The submission of graft allegations to the ACC also declined by 3,700 last year. The graft allegations came down to 14,789 in 2021 from 18,489 in 2020.
The number of graft allegations was 21,371 in 2019, 16,606 in 2018, 17,983 in 2017, 12,990 in 2016 and 10,415 in 2015.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), told the Daily Sun that one of the major reasons behind the poor conviction rate in the ACC cases is coronavirus pandemic.
He also said the commission had earlier got a huge number of allegations when it introduced their hotline service but now allegations delinked as people are not getting expected outcome after submission of the complaints.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman also described the disposal rate of ACC cases as ‘pathetic’. “The ACC has always been boasting of success mentioning the case disposal rate and the conviction rate of the accused. It is not clear how they’re actually claiming this.”
Meanwhile, the anti-graft drives by the ACC also declined in the last two years.
The ACC officials blamed the coronavirus pandemic for the poor number of drives against corruption.
According to the ACC annual report, the ACC enforcement teams conducted a total of 487 anti-graft drives in 2020 but the number came down to only 245 in 2021.
The commission decided to conduct inquiry into 533 allegations after scrutinising a total of 14,789 allegations in 2021 and it also sent 2,889 allegations to the offices concerned for taking steps in this regard.
In 2020, the ACC decided to carry out inquiry into 822 allegations after scrutinising a total of 18,489 allegations while 2,469 allegations were sent to different offices for taking necessary measures.