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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Bangladesh tackles corruption
By Alistair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

The Bangladeshi Government has, for the first time, announced plans to set up an independent anti-corruption commission.

Wad of dollar bills being counted
Corruption has been recorded at the highest levels of government

It says the new authority will be able to help launch impartial inquiries into allegations of corruption against anyone - including government ministers.

Bangladesh has been listed as one of the world's most corrupt countries by an independent monitoring group.

The government promised to tackle the problem when it was elected in 2001.

With its reputation for high levels of corruption, Monday's announcement is significant.

In principle, it will mean politicians, civil servants, military leaders and police will all be held accountable if they commit corruption.

Approval soon

Most of the country's top politicians, including the prime minister and opposition leader, have - over the course of their careers - been accused of corruption, but few have been convicted.

Although a date for the commission's formation is still to be determined, ministers insist its creation will soon be approved by parliament.

Bangladesh already has a bureau of anti-corruption, but it is widely regarded as toothless and not genuinely impartial.

The government says it is fulfilling one of its main election manifesto commitments by deciding to go ahead with the commission.

Critics of the scheme say the announcement may be connected with an important meeting this weekend between the government and international donors.

One of their key demands is that Bangladesh introduces measures to promote better governance.

But ministers say their aim is to raise Bangladesh's position in the index of corrupt countries compiled by the monitoring group, Transparency International.

For the last two years, the country has finished bottom of the list.

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