Published:  12:40 AM, 08 February 2019 Last Update: 12:41 AM, 08 February 2019

Social accountability to end corruption

Social accountability to end corruption

According to a study published by the UK-based economic consultancy Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), Bangladesh's economy has been ranked 41st among the largest economies in the world in 2019 -- stepping up from 43rd-place last year. 

And by 2033, Bangladesh will climb 19 places in WELT (World Economic League) to become the world's 24th largest economy by 2033. This is indeed a matter of rejoice for the Bangladeshi citizen but at the same time is a matter of concern due to its unbeatable position in corruption.

It is regretting that Bangladesh routinely finds itself among the most corrupt countries in the world as per all major ranking institutions. In a recent report published by Transparency International (TI), it is found that Bangladesh is the 143rd corrupt nation out of 175 countries. Corruption Rank in Bangladesh averaged 132.78 from 1996 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 162 in 2007 and a record low of 51 in 1996.

You can see corruption is pervasive at all levels of society and see unethical use of power and money to gain personal interest in both government, non-government and as well as private sector. You can see corruptions through breaking Code of Criminal Procedure, the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Penal Code, and the Money Laundering Prevention, extortion, active and passive bribery, bribery of foreign public officials and using public resources or confidential state information for private gain.

The ongoing trend in corruption in Bangladesh is matter of concern for all what is happening due to not having good governance in the system and lack of social accountability.  If the good governance and social accountability is ensured we can hold the pace of development otherwise, reaching the target by 2033 is almost impossible.

The current government also emphasized to adopt a zero-tolerance policy against militancy, drugs and corruption in its election manifesto. After coming to power for fourth time, the Awami League government seems stricter on corruption and showed zero tolerance policy to corruption.

The ruling chair Sheikh Hasina and other political leader are seem more cautious and showed their strong will to reducing corruption. Already some ministers have announcing zero tolerance to corruption and planning to brought under automation and close circuit cameras will be installed at every office. So that, none can be engaged in any corruptions. 

However, to curb corruption the current government can take social accountability tools and mechanism as a weapon. Through these tools and mechanism,   they can make public officials and non-public officials accountable for their action.  These tools complement and strengthen conventional modes and mechanisms of accountability, which include elections, political checks and balances, legal rules and processes and administrative regulations.

To make more effective social accountability mechanisms in order to reduce corruption systematically it is better to start from root level to up level through various interventions like community scorecards, citizen report cards and social audits. These interventions will strengthen citizen's voice and improve their capacity to directly demand greater accountability and responsiveness from public officials and service providers.

Through connecting local and central public resource management in a structured process which combines direct public participation with response mechanisms can be another tool for social accountability.  It will facilitate a space to improve a new public governance models which genuinely put citizens at the center.

However, in Bangladesh the scenario of such kind of interventions is not that much seen.   Only a very few non-government organizations are seen working in this issue especially at local government level.  As a result, lack of transparency is seen in government since they are no system of their accountability to public.

Even in our neighboring country, India we can see a good practice of social accountability in order to ensure transparency and effective delivery of government service. In India social accountability mechanisms are now being established as a part of the governance agenda.

We can learn some good examples of social accountability mechanisms form our neighboring state India and how it leaves remarkable impact on curbing corruption through making government accountable.  International development partners, including the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) and the World Bank, can and are supporting these processes towards scaling.

End of last year, I have attended a forum meeting of GPSA, with the theme Money matters in the public sector, with particular emphasis on human capital. In the forum representatives, from and many countries, were present, who represented how social accountability mechanism impacted on their governance system through making the public officials accountable and thus curb the corruption in their society.

This is indeed a praise-worthy initiative and Bangladesh can follow their path by taking interventions such as social accountability mechanism in their system where the non-government organizations can play their best role.

They can take interventions like awareness-raising on information- and accountability-seeking behavior changes amongst service users. They learn to openly question and challenge service providers and government about lapses in service delivery and develop outcomes-seeking behavior. 

At the same time they can work on by pushing to behavior changes of the institutions upwards in the way government works, including how it prioritizes its budgets, manages the implementation of service delivery projects and designs it policies. The combination of these changes ultimately increases the effectiveness of these development programs to achieve development outcomes and thus ensure accountability and curb corruption from the society.

The writer is a researcher and development activist in Bangladesh.

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