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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November, 2004, 16:10 GMT
Bangladesh to tackle corruption
US dollars being counted
Bangladesh has launched an independent judicial commission to fight corruption and improve its image abroad, it said.

The new Anti-Corruption Commission was welcomed by Transparency International, a global group which combats corruption

But Transparency head, David Nussbaum, said he was not yet convinced the commission had adequate safeguards "in terms of composition and funding".

Bangladesh was named as most corrupt country four years in a row in Transparency's annual survey.

The survey relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption in differing countries, as seen by business people, academics and risk analysts.

"A three-member anti-corruption commission, headed by a former High Court judge, was appointed late on Sunday," a government spokesman said in Dhaka.

Major step

Foreign donors and investors in Bangladesh had been urging the government to establish an independent anti-corruption body - free from political bias and administrative influence, officials said.

Septuagenarian Justice Sultan Hossain Khan, a retired High Court judge and former chairman of the Bangladesh Press Council, will chair the three-member Commission.

We're very encouraged by the prospect of this being developed
David Nussbaum, Transparency International

The other two members are Professor Maniruzzaman Miah, an ex-vice chancellor of Dhaka university, and retired civil servant Maniruddin Ahmed.

Mr Ahmed is a former chairman of the country's capital market regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The formation of the commission is seen as a major step towards fighting against corruption.


"We're very encouraged by the prospect of this being developed," said David Nussbaum, managing director of Transparency International.

"We were involved in helping the government set up its anti-corruption legislation."

However he added: "But there has been some foot-dragging in getting the commission set up and the government need to demonstrate that they are fully committed to it."

Bangladesh's finance minister, Saifur Rahman, said the country was paying a heavy price for being branded as a corrupt country.

He said this week the country was deprived of a $300m development fund from the American Millennium Challenge Account because of the "corrupt" label.

The commission has been empowered to deal with all corruption-related complaints, whether against bureaucrats or against government ministers.

Before the creation of the commission, Bangladesh had an anti-corruption bureau, now dissolved, under the direct control of the Prime Minister's office.

The body often faced criticism of being too weak to investigate allegations, especially against politically influential people.

Sceptical opposition

Opposition parties, like the Awami League, have questioned the neutrality of the new commission.

The league leaders say the body was formed with people who are closely linked with the governing Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Mr Nussbaum said two things needed to change before Bangladesh's reputation would improve.

"Firstly, it needs to tackle corruption more rigorously. Secondly, the government needs to communicate the steps it is taking.

"People's perceptions are influenced by what they hear as well as what they see, but in the end the reality must change for perceptions to change."

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