Transparency International Bangladesh
Israeli surveillance tools: TIB says without policies such move violates fundamental rights
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Thursday expressed its concern over an international media report on the Bangladesh government's purchase of highly controversial surveillance technology from Israel. In the absence of specific policies, the use of such technology will pose a serious risk of undermining several fundamental constitutional rights, the graft watchdog body said in a statement on Thursday. Read more: Govt on track to introduce ‘lawful interception system’ to monitor social media, thwart anti-state activities: Home Minister tells JS People have the right to know the answer to the fundamental question that such a terrible tool was bought with public tax money according to which specific law and policy, for what purpose, in what context, in whose interest it will be used, it said. According to a report by the Israeli media Haaretz, Bangladesh bought surveillance technology from a company run by a former Israeli intelligence commander, which arrived here in June last year. In this regard, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said people have the right to know the government's precise explanation regarding the purchase and use of technology that undermines the privacy, security, freedom of speech and expression of people's personal information and communications and, above all, threatens the lives and livelihoods of individuals. “Nothing was purchased directly from Israel’ -- the government's interpretation does not mean that this Israeli technology was not imported,” he said. The published news clearly mentions that the purchase was made through intermediaries in Cyprus at a cost of around Tk 60 crore due to the lack of diplomatic relations between Israel and Bangladesh, he added. The National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC) commander and other senior officials even visited Greece in 2021 and 2022 to learn how to operate this technology, Iftekharuzzaman said, referring to the Israeli media report. Read more: Critical information infrastructure list is questionable: TIB “If this information is false, it is the responsibility of the authorities concerned and the government to prove it. After all, there is no room for doubt that this technology has already reached the relevant agencies of the government.” “There is no option to use this technology until a concrete policy involving all parties is formulated to ensure the constitutional rights of individuals. If not, Bangladesh will be considered as a completely surveillance-based state by trampling public interest,” he said.
Int’l Youth Day: TIB for suitable environment to utilise youths for development
Transparency International Bangladesh on Friday called for the creation of a suitable environment to effectively utilize huge unemployed youths in the national development. One-fifth of the total population of the country is youth, but the unemployment rate among the youth groups is twice of the national unemployment rate, said a press release. On the occasion of the International Youth Day (August 12), TIB placed a nine-point recommendation for ensuring the leading role of the youths in making sustainable development and building well-governed and corruption-free society. The recommendations include providing youths with work-oriented education and skills as per the demand of the international labour market; allocating fund for the education sector as the recommendations of United Nations; ensuring that the recruitment process for all posts is corruption-free and merit-based; and creating employments through short-term, medium-term and long-term special plans alongside providing special intensives to restart the small and medium industries where many youths lost jobs. Read:TIB demands a special law to protect journalists Among other recommendations, ensuring uninterrupted education for girls and financial insolvent youths through special incentives, and the youths with disabilities, indigenous communities and socially disadvantaged groups through special measure; arranging special incentives for youth entrepreneurs and making the jobless youths fit for alternative professions through special trainings; and reopening immediately the recruitment, examination and verification process of all public and private jobs which now remain closed. The remaining two suggestions are taking special initiative to bring back the Covid dropped out students to the classrooms; and ensuring privacy and freedom of expression of all citizens including youths and bringing necessary reform to the law and policy framework to this end. TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the country’s traditional education is failing to create work-oriented skilled manpower. "A recent survey says that 47 percent of educated people are unemployed in the country. The major reason is that the necessary skills to join the workforce can’t be acquired with the knowledge gained from formal education,” he said. Although this problem is getting serious gradually, there is no concerted effort to address it, which is really a matter of worrying, said Dr Iftekharuzzaman. He said the most alarming is perhaps the attempt to deny or conceal the true number of unemployed among the country's youth population. To come out of this trend, it is the demand of the time to introduce the employment-oriented educational system and take initiatives to formulate and implement policies, and allocate budget to create employment for the youths, he added.
Sweden signs 5-year grant deal with TIB
Sweden and Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Monday signed a five-year grant agreement aiming to strengthen the existing cooperation in preventing corruption. Under the agreement, TIB will implement its core project “Participatory Action against Corruption: Towards Transparency and Accountability (PACTA)” during 2022-2026. In addition, TIB is supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) of Switzerland in this project. Sweden will contribute 50 million Swedish Kronor (around US$ 5,340,000) for this project. Also read: TIB urges ACC to clear the air about Sharif Uddin's removal The signing ceremony was held at the Embassy of Sweden with the Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden in Dhaka, Christine Johansson and Executive Director of TIB, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, as signatory parties, respectively. The project's overall objectives are to contribute to curbing corruption as means of developing a more inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory society consistent with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The project will involve more people in the social movement against corruption grounded on data-driven community monitoring to identify governance deficiencies, promote transparent service delivery and facilitate social accountability. Also read: EC formation law: TIB seeks focus on public expectation Speaking at the event, Head of Development Cooperation- Christine Johansson, said, “Combatting and preventing corruption is central to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and a key priority for the Swedish Government. It is with great pleasure that I today renew our longstanding partnership with TIB.” Expressing gratitude for the continued support, Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB said they are honoured and inspired to sign this 4th successive round of partnership agreement between the Embassy of Sweden and TIB with the shared objective of strengthening the social movement against corruption in Bangladesh in order to achieve higher standards of transparent and accountable governance for inclusive development, social change and justice.
EC formation law: TIB seeks focus on public expectation
Transparency International Bangladesh on Tuesday demanded that the enactment of an EC formational law be done giving importance to public expectation and taking opinions from the civil society or all stakeholders. It is a matter of optimism that the draft law was approved following the month-long talks between the President and registered political parties over the constitution of an independent, neutral and non-party election commission, a TIB statement said. Read: Engage all stakeholders in formulating RMG code of conduct: TIB “But it’s essential to finalise it (the proposed law) through a complete scrutiny and detailed analysis on the basis of the opinions of the civil society or all the stakeholders before the enactment of such an important law which will reflect a constitutional pledge. So, the draft law will have to be made public soon for all,” it said. The statement came a day after the Cabinet approved the draft of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner Appointment Act, 2022 in order to have a law in this regard as per the Constitution. TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the sudden step taken by the government to enact the election commission law, reflecting the constitutional commitment and the long-standing public expectation, is positive.
Engage all stakeholders in formulating RMG code of conduct: TIB
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Tuesday welcomed the initiative to frame a unified code of conduct for the readymade garment sector, jointly by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA). But the TIB suggested engagement of all stakeholders including RMG workers and labour bodies, researchers and social organisations in the process to formulate an effective code of conduct, said a press release. READ: Keep civil society, media people in DSA amendment process: TIB TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the country’s apparel sector has largely been able to overcome the image crisis created following the Rana Plaza tragedy by ensuring a safe work environment through joint ventures of local and foreign bodies. But still it needs to go far to accomplish the desired progress in this sector, he said. “In this context, the joint initiative of BGMEA and BKMEA, the two apex organisations in the sector, for formulation of a unified code of conduct is a timely step,” he said. READ: Formulate guideline to end anarchy in foreign workers’ recruitment: TIB The TIB chief said if an integrated code of conduct can be framed and implemented with the participation of all stakeholders, it will play a significant role in ensuring a decent work environment in this sector and simultaneously it will set an example in the world arena.
Institutional limitations, accountability deficiency key concerns in secondary-higher education: TIB
Institutional limitations, lack of transparency and accountability, and various legal deficiencies remain as the major challenges for ensuring good governance in the country’s secondary and higher education activities, according to a study conducted by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB). To overcome the limitations, the TIB placed a 20-point recommendation including preparing and implementing plans in line with the National Education Policy 2010, enhancing teachers’ online teaching capacity, create integrated organogram directly under the revenue sector, bringing the dropout students back to the classrooms, and increasing the budgetary allocation for education sector as per the suggestion of Unesco, and removing the disparity in teacher-student ratio. The report of the study titled “Secondary Education Programmes: Challenges for Good Governance and Ways Out” was disclosed at a virtual press conference on Wednesday. Read: TIB: Private hospitals too expensive for Covid-19 treatment TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman spoke at the conference, while Taslima Akter Hena raised the report of the study conducted on the basis of the data collected from both primary and secondary sources from May 2019 to September 2021. The data was collected from 325 key informants concerned through interviews and 54 education institutions of 18 upazilas. According to the findings, various strategies were set out in the National Education Policy 2010 to bring transparency, accountability and dynamism in education administration, but there is lack of effective initiative at the policy-making level to execute the strategies. Though work has been on the draft education law for the last 10 years, it could not be turned into law due to bureaucratic procrastination, the study shows. In addition to the lack of initiatives to increase the financial benefits and social status of teachers and ensure effective accountability, initiatives have not been taken yet in accordance with the education policy to determine and implement the methods for evaluating students, as per the report. Read: Third party’s involvement behind vaccine crisis: TIB Though the Unesco recommends allocating six per cent of GDP or 20 per cent of the budget for the education sector, Bangladesh raised it to 10-12 per cent of the budget in the last 10 years, it said. The allocations for the education sector in other South Asian countries are 3-6 per cent of the GDP, while it is only 2-3 per cent in Bangladesh. According to the study findings, the secondary and higher education faces a number problems including lack of adequate facilities for teachers and staff, lack of manpower at the field-level administration which hamper supervision and inspection activities, procrastination in promotion of teachers, and lack of teachers’ capacity and training particularly about ICT, creating creative and digital contents, lack of transparency and accountability, political influence, irregularities and financial corruption.
TIB: Private hospitals too expensive for Covid-19 treatment
Private hospitals charge up to Tk five lakh on an average for treatment of a corona patient as low-come middle class people are forced to go there due to shortage of ICU facilities in government hospitals. This was revealed by a recent study of anti-graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) titled "Tackling Coronavirus Pandemic: Governance Challenges in COVID-19 Vaccine Management.” Also read: Third party’s involvement behind vaccine crisis: TIB "A large number of the population, mostly the middle class, has been forced to seek treatment at private hospitals due to lack of facilities in dedicated government Covid-19 hospitals," TIB Deputy Programme Manager Md Julkarnayeen said while presenting the results of the study on Tuesday. Besides, the research sheds light on the fact that the rate of inclusion of low-income, rural and impoverished people has been very low in the vaccination drive largely due to lack of publicity and complicated registration process. Also read: TIB seeks transparency in vaccine collection, distribution The study found that around 43% of the vaccinated population have faced problems in registering. The inclusion of women under the vaccination drive was 37%, the study said. The TIB report said that irresponsibility and lack of coordination between government bodies have caused sufferings to expatriates returning to overseas work. They have to spend an additional Tk 60,000-70,000 each for not having a vaccination certificate.
Third party’s involvement behind vaccine crisis: TIB
The current vaccine crisis in Bangladesh has been created as the government depended on a single source for it through a third party on political considerations bowing down to the pressure of a business quarter, alleged TIB Executive director Dr Iftekharuzzaman on Tuesday. Dr Iftekhar came up with the remark while presenting the findings of a study of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in an online press conference along with the members of its research team. The study titled ‘Tackling Coronavirus Pandemic: Governance Challenges in COVID-19 Vaccine Management’ was conducted following both the qualitative and quantitative methods and by analysing data in the light of different indicators of good governance. The TIB Executive Director said they tried to portrait the challenges in Covid vaccine activities in the light of good governance in their research. “We found the deficit in the indicators of good governance in vaccine management activities. Especially, a third party was given the scope to get benefited by procuring vaccines in an ambiguous process by violating rules and laws,” he said. Iftekhar said as the public representatives are involved with the third party, it cannot have any business relationship with the government since it is prohibited by the law. “Despite that, it happened and we still don’t get any explanation of it.” “There’s a strategic deficit in procuring the vaccine. Especially, the current vaccine crisis has created dependence on a single source or institution in procuring vaccine jabs on political considerations due to the influence of a business quarter, causing stagnation in vaccine activities,” he said. Iftekhar said the government announced to give vaccines to around 14 crore people or the 80 percent population, but no specific strategy and pragmatic framework has so far been formulated to accomplish the big challenging job. Also read: TIB seeks transparency in vaccine collection, distribution “Nothing is said about how the vaccines will be collected and distributed. In the budget speech, it was mentioned that 25 lakh people will be given a vaccine each month and then it’ll take more than four years. So, we think lack of a well-thought-out plan and framework is now the main deficit in this regard,” he observed. He said the government could not ensure access to the disadvantaged people in the vaccination programme due to the lack of coordination in the implementation of it. "There's also discrimination in providing the vaccine as the registration process was adverse to the disadvantaged people." Iftekhar said the risk of Covid infection increased in the country due to the government’s insincerity in enforcing the law to force people to maintain its guidelines and a section of people’s apathy to maintaining the health safety rules. He said the corruption and irregularities in the health sector are going on as happened in the past. “Purchase and procurement rules have been violated, information about illegal transaction regarding the appointment of manpower has been surfaced, work orders have been given in favour of institutions accused of graft violating rules and temporary hospitals were made without assessing the utility and those were later shut wasting crores of taka of people,” Iftekhar said. The TIB Executive director also said the government is much more active in controlling the flow of information than in controlling corruption in the country. “The government has been trying to control the disclosure of information since the beginning of Covid and this trend has strengthened further. “We think the government is 100-time more active in controlling the disclosure of information than in controlling the corruption,” Iftekhar said. He said journalists and many others are being harassed by making attacks or filing cases due to the government’s tendency to control the flow of information. “We think it’s a suicidal move and the government should come out of it.” Also read: Over half of district hospitals lack necessary equipment: TIB Replying to a question, Iftekhar said checking corruption is surely a tough job, but not impossible only if the government has strong political will and efforts to implement it. He said those involved in corruption must be brought to justice while the Anti-Corruption Commission must play an active and impartial role in finding out the corrupt to reduce corruption. Md Julkarnayeen, a research fellow at TIB, said the third party was involved in vaccine import in the country without any logic. “Bangladesh bought vaccines at a higher price (US$ 5) than that of European Union countries (US$ 2.19), India (US$ 2.8), African Union (US$ 3) and Nepal (US$ 4),” he said. Julkarnayeen said Nepal directly procured the vaccine from Serum Institute and Sri Lanka through Government Pharmaceutical Corporation. “Excluding the cost, the third party will make a profit of around BDT 77.00 for each dose and its total profit from 3 crore doses will be BDT 231 crore. Had the government procured the vaccine directly from the Serum Institute, the money saved in each dose could have been used to buy 6.8 million more doses of the vaccine,” he said. The TIB study recommended working out a definite action plan on how to bring 80 percent of the country’s population under vaccination within a specific period, making strong diplomatic efforts to collect the vaccines from all possible sources, allowing competent companies to produce the vaccines locally on their own initiative, making public all information about the vaccine purchase agreement, except for secrets pertinent to state affairs, reforming vaccine registration process and vaccination activities considering disadvantaged people and remote areas, setting up RT-PCR laboratories in all districts and taking steps to keep the cost of treatment for COVID-19, including ICUs in private hospitals, within the reach of people.
No Whitening of Black Money: TIB cautious in welcoming govt’s 'realisation'
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), the corruption watchdog, has cautiously welcomed the government's decision to discard the provision of whitening black money in the proposed budget for the next fiscal (2021-22). Besides, the TIB is also drawing attention to the fact that this discriminatory and unconstitutional benefit should not be included in any other way out of respect to the honest taxpayers. Also read: Provision for black money whitening to continue: Finance Minister The TIB has expressed concern over the lack of a clear roadmap to ensure transparency and prevention of corruption in the overall budget implementation, not just the increase in allocations to critical sectors such as the health sector to control Covid. TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman in a statement on Thursday night said despite strong objections and protests from all quarters, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal allowed whitening black money in the outgoing budget. Also read: Black money: CPD for breaking vicious circle of illicit income “The decision of the finance minister not to renew the whitening of black money in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year can be taken as a realization of the government," he said. The TIB Executive Director said they want to believe that the authorities will not continue this unethical benefit under the pressure of vested interests again in future, while respecting the Prime Minister's dictum of 'zero tolerance against corruption'.
CPI 2020 ranking of Bangladesh not credible: Info Minister
Information Minister Hasan Mahmud has rejected Bangladesh’s ranking in the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2020.