Accountability in Bangladesh
Accountability is one of the ineluctable factors which are indispensable for ensuring good governance. It is the best way to build the government's capacity. As Bangladesh moves onto middle-income status, ensuring accountability is inevitable and it is must for sustainable democracy as well. The stronger the accountability exists in a country, the stronger the democracy is practiced in that country.
How much is Bangladesh prepared for sustainable democracy? Because is there a single sector in the country where there is effective accountability or accountability is perfectly ensured and established? Probably, the answer is not unknown to all.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago, a doctor of Narail were phoned to know about the reason of his absence. But the doctor was dumbfounded because of facing that unexpected circumstance. He was never prepared for accountability and it may be, was totally beyond his imagination. As a student of Public Administration I think, that was not fault of the doctor rather the problem is related to the way accountability is being practiced.
Administrative accountability makes the civil servants answerable for their actions. But it is gradually being debilitated as the system of political, legislative and judicial accountability is being broken down. This happens because of not being able to ensure rule of law leads to increase corruption in the country.
Once Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon, president of BCL said, "Everybody says against corruption but a driver who also supports the statement gets freed by paying 100 or 200 taka to the police because of not having a license." And, this is undoubtedly true. This is like namaz or worship what everybody says it has to be followed but in practice, it's not perfectly followed by all.
In a democratic government system, civil servants work in the government for the people. The importance of bureaucratic accountability is huge with an eye to better implementation of policies taken by government. Internal accountability and external accountability are being polluted by politicization. Every actor in every sector acts as a rent-seeker. Mostly they try to serve their interests in cold blood by exercising discretionary power.
Social accountability involves ordinary citizens, civil society who can play roles in the area of budget, policy-making, planning, public goods and services and expenditure. But strong non-political civil society is almost absent in our country.
The developing countries and developed countries can easily be differentiated by the scale of accountability as an important element of good governance.
Accountability is larger where responsibility is greater. Our new generations' target is to go there where power exists. And they think, accountability can be overcome with power.
Do our political parties have willingness to be accountable? The answer of this question is invisible, because political party and bureaucracy are the two sides of the same coin in terms of rent-seeking behavior. They always try to serve their loaves and fishes rather than public interest by maintaining liaison.
If this continues, that day is not far away when the potentiality of Bangladesh will be nipped in the bud and every sector will be collapsed. Our Prime Minister said, "Our dream is that Bangladesh will be a developed country by 2041. But if good governance can't be ensured earlier, our dream will be nothing but building castle in the air. Though it is not possible to ensure accountability in Bangladesh overnight, it is right time that the ruling government should concentrate on this.
As Awami League-led 14-party grand alliance has been able to form the government for the third consecutive terms despite some controversy, it has already been proved that they are conducive for development of the state. Now it's time to keep an eye on the mechanisms of good governance with a view to sustainable development.
In Bangladesh, the office of the ombudsman, is enshrined in the constitution of 1972, but is yet to become a reality. In April 1980 the parliament passed the 'Ombudsman Act'. Interestingly, while the importance of this institution has been widely and strongly emphasized, no effort has yet been made to establish the office.
According to article-77 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh,
(1) Parliament may, by law, provide for the establishment of the office of Ombudsman.
(2) The Ombudsman shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as Parliament may, by law, determine, including the power to investigate any action taken by a Ministry, a public officer or a statutory public authority.
(3) The Ombudsman shall prepare an annual report concerning the discharge of his functions, and such report shall be laid before Parliament.
In a democratic country, an ombudsman acts as an institution which ensures that the administration of the country is responsive, transparent and accountable to the people.
Actually the establishment of Ombudsman depends on political willingness of our country.
The Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh should make an example establishing the office of ombudsman in reality which will assist to ensure accountability as well as to ensure rule of law in Bangladesh. Apart from this, it will thoroughly turn over a new leaf in the history of Bangladesh.
Finally, as the development in Bangladesh is going on, irrespective of cast or creed, everybody should come forward for sustainable development. Besides, qualitative changes in the management of public affairs should be implemented for effective accountability. We should change our mentality by considering accountability as a positive thing that will increase effectiveness, efficiency, administrative innovation and remove conflict and distrust.
The writer is student of department of Public Administration, Jahangirnagar University.