Iqbal Mahmood,Chairman,Anti-Corruption Commission by Raju Alim

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Iqbal Mahmood was born in Chandpur in 1955. His father Mohammad Abdul Latif was a high school teacher. And his mother name is Mahfuza Begum. He had his schooling in Assasuni High School, Satkhira and passed SSC in 1972. He studied in Notre Dame College, Dhaka and passed HSC in 1974. He completed honors and Master’s degrees in Public Administration from  Dhaka University. He holds a Master degree in Policy Studies from the University of New South Wales, Australia with specialization in International policy analysis and development. He is a Ph.D. student of Public Administration in Jahangirnagar University.

Iqbal Mahmood joined in civil service as a member of BCS (Administration) cadre in January 1981. He worked as a Magistrate, Assistant Commissioner, Upazila Nirbahi Officer, Additional Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner at the field level. He also served in different fields of Bangladesh government as a higher official like Senior Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration, Secretary, Ministry of Communications & Railways, Secretary, Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Establishment, Additional Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries & Livestock, Deputy Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, Employment with National and International Development Organizations, Alternate Executive Director, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Manila, Philippines, Executive Director, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Member of Board of Trustees, The ICDDR,B-Center for Health and Population research, Dhaka, Bangladesh with many more Intl. organizations. Raju Alim covered his interview.

What is Anti-Corruption Commission doing for institutional change?

Iqbal Mahmood: it’s very difficult to give your answer because I think there could not have much changing happened. If you want to change, you should first bring change in mentality. And we need institutional change. If we can modify our environment, we can hope to get change. You can say we’ve changed a lot but in reality we have not changed yet. One thing is changing that is we wanted to reach out a message to the people-nobody can get free by occurring corruption. And we’re success to give this message.

You’ve said, nobody can get free by occurring corruption, not ever not never. What can we do to introduce this culture?

Iqbal Mahmood: It’s a very difficult task. We need more time. It’s a very important issue what you’re talking about. Nothing is possible if we don’t change the system. We’ve made 21 institutional teams to bring systematic change. Many of us get feared and think that we come to investigate. Actually we don’t go for investigation, we only go for observing. We want to see what reasons existed behind corruption. These teams are working over this issue and they also think how to stop corruption.

What kinds of work anti-corruption commission undertake and what kinds of work have you done successfully? How many charge sheets, case filed and seize- we want to know everything.

Iqbal Mahmood: I want to start from your last word-seize. Anti-corruption Commission doesn’t willing to arrest anyone. We often see that the accused person doesn’t come to us but we need to hear him. He frequently ignores us. In that situation, investigation officer takes initiative of arresting. We don’t want to arrest. And our officers aren’t willing to arrest if situation doesn’t favor. If they surrender to court, our officers get their speech in jail gate. Our main focus is to get speech. Without taking speech, we can’t accuse, prepare FIR or giving charge sheet and it’s also not legal.

You’ve arrested a person but he get bail from the court. Is Anti-corruption commission get full freedom?

Iqbal Mahmood: Honorable Prime Minister have said, Anti-Corruption Commission is working with full freedom. We also believe and think to be free. It’s actually a place of trust that we’re free and we’re working free. But court is different issue. We’ve to abide court’s judgment. If court give bail to someone, it means court is perfect. It is not wise to rise any question against court. I must say court’s decision is final and we’ve to obey it.

You may see our five years work plan. We want to root out corruption from the field level so that people can get services free from corruption. It is our initial target. Our institutional teams are working over this issue. When does people annoyed? People becomes annoyed when they don’t get services at the right hour. Whether there is corruption or not, people thinks to do something else if they don’t get service at pick hour. If it consumes more time, people thinks over speed money. We also inform our government to provide their services at right hour. Then you can hope to get corruption free services. People want to revolt against corruption. When we organize any program, we come to see people’s participation. They’re participating spontaneously and it’s their silent revolt. It’s a matter of consciousness.

Everything is becoming digital only to reduce corruption. What is the initiative of your commission regarding this issue?

Iqbal Mahmood: it’s a good question. Corruption stretches when service and economic dealing run together touching human hand. If you go to machine, corruption is not possible. Machine never commits wrong. Two plus two is equal to four and machine will say four. But human may say two plus two is equal to five, isn’t it? Corruption is reducing due to digitalization. Nobody can create any question on TIB’s report. They do it every year and much discussion occurred. Government say we don’t accept it but intellectual society say, it’s quite ok. But we don’t say anything. I think we’re advancing at least two point isn’t a matter of joke.

Works of Anti-corruption Commission are very challenging. You’ve to work against powerful leaders, industrialists and government officials. Do you face any challenge?

Iqbal Mahmood: you’re talking about pressure but I don’t take any pressure. Even I don’t get any pressure for last one year and I hope not to get in future. If you desire pressure, it may come. If you don’t desire, it will not come. If government doesn’t pressurize for anything or impose any burden unethically to Anti-Corruption Commission, it means a great assistance. On the other hand, we get every possible assistance from the government that we deserved. It means government is very caring to us and honorable Prime Minister uttered three different points in her speech that are: ‘Anti-corruption Commission becomes more stronger, it is working independently and initiatives are taken to reduce corruption by using information technology’.

What initiatives do you take to ensure one stop service?

Iqbal Mahmood: when we feel the necessity of law enforcement force, we give requisition. Whenever we gave requisition, we got RAB, Police or anybody else. Army support is different issue and we don’t need army support. But I’m not sure about future necessity. If situation demands, we’ll call but in a different way. We can easily call RAB, Police or BGB. Actually we don’t face that situation. It’s because people realized that everyone should come under law. When our officers go to anyone, police never go with us. We’re all white people and we also deal with white people. We don’t deal with blue people. A honorable man can commit wrong willingly or unwillingly. So s/he can realize their wrong deed and they have to come to us. Most of them very often willingly come to us.

There is a bad relation of Anti Corruption Commission with Transparency International. You don’t obey their corruption graph and they also disobey your success. What is the real scenario of corruption?

Iqbal Mahmood: there is some conceptual misunderstanding. We’ve good relation with TIB or intellectual society. There may have some criticism over our works and we appreciate it. Without criticism, we can’t watch our face. We’re taking all the criticisms positively.

What is the role of media regarding this issue?

Iqbal Mahmood: media role is tremendous. I want to thank all the medias through you including print, online and freelance journalism. We got heartiest support from media for last one year. Nobody can get relief after occurring any corruption and media reached out this message to everyone’s home. So I think media is the cordial part of us.

Overall, what is the success of  Anti-Corruption Commission?

Iqbal Mahmood: we got a good opening. This is our success. People has a conception about DUDOK and we’re success to change this mindset. Our works are visualizing and we’re success to reach out the message that nobody get free after occurring corruption. There is another success of us that is we case file and handover to court. Once our success rate was only 20% but this time we got 54%. There is question over the quality of filed case. There is also weakness in investigation and we confess it. Nothing should be hide as it is a public institute. We’re negotiating with the government regarding investigation weakness, lack of manpower and our infrastructural capability. Government also interested to help us.

Anti-corruption day, week, rally, meeting, seminars and symposiums are holding all over the world. We want to know the motto of DUDOK’s awareness days and campaign.

Iqbal Mahmood: we observe ‘Anti-corruption Day’ in 26th March during the Independence Day. Once Bangabandhu said, Revolution for Freedom. Actually our revolution was for becoming free from economic, social and political oppression. Do we really get freedom? It’s a big question. It is not possible to get any fruitful result of any movement without people’s participation. So people should be connected with all activities. From this thinking, we held a seven days program. Why did we do it? We do it think over becoming free. We celebrate all of our programs within the independent country on the Independence Day only to make people connected and make realize. Corruption is the main problem of becoming free from economic, political and social complexity. You can see that our GDP is 6.5/7%. This year GDP target is 7%. If we can reduce corruption, our growth will be double digit. If we reduce 2%, we’ll get economic freedom. Social and political freedom are closely connected with economic freedom. So we’re operating different campaigning programs to inform this news.

What kind of benefit do we got from Digital Technology?

Iqbal Mahmood: we don’t get yet enough success from digital technology because we’ve just started to use it. You may happy to know that ADB is donating 5 lac USD and Korean govt. is giving 3 lac USD only to make paperless office. That means we’re advancing to digital network. We’re trying to monitor our work within our facility like how many cases are filled, how many cases are going to court, what case has lost time and what is the result of investigation of any individual case. Those works are monitoring by digital networks.

How does mass people suffer by corruption?

Iqbal Mahmood: Our mass people or poor people aren’t associated with corruption but they suffered due to corruption. If we fill out the loaf whole of corruption, people will get proper services. This is our actual target. This is very common in capitalist society to be seized assets. But it should be according to principles. DUDOK wants to see well management of assets. That means you pay tax properly and provide service properly. Like you get a loan to make a firm but you build a home. If you build a firm, people would get employment opportunity. So you get privilege but people deprived. That is why corruption increases economic discrimination. So reduce of corruption will decrease discrimination.

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