Three out of four people in Bangladesh who seek immigration services or who deal with law enforcement agencies have to bribe officials, according to a report published Wednesday by the Bangladeshi chapter of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
The country’s Department of Immigration and Passports and its various law enforcement agencies were the most corrupt of public sector agencies last year, according to results of a survey of national households conducted in 2015 by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), which it released in Dhaka on Wednesday.
People paid a staggering 88.2 billion taka (U.S. $1.1 billion) in bribes to public servants in 2015 alone, according to TIB.
“The matter of concern is people are the victims of such corruption,” TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman told a press conference in Dhaka.
The survey found that 78 percent and 75 percent of people, respectively, had to bribe officials at the Department of Immigration and Passports as well as the police and other law enforcement agencies. The department and the other agencies all fall under the home ministry.
Bribery of officials who handle education, public utilities, roads, transportation, land administration, judicial services, and other matters was also rife in Bangladesh last year, the TIB reported.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal criticized the report, saying that TIB researches had compiled incomplete data for their survey.
“The report is based on data collected in early 2015. They should have prepared the report through an extensive verification of the data,” he said.
The TIB is a credible organization, Badiul Alam Majumder, general secretary of Sujon, a rights group campaigning for rule of law and social justice, told BenarNews.
“And I think the TIB findings are the reflection of the ground reality. The government should take the report seriously,” Majumder said.
‘Collectors for the police’
The data was collected from November 2014 to October 2015, according to TIB.
In its countrywide survey, TIB garnered responses from all of Bangladesh’s 64 districts to determine the extent of corruption and bribery in the top 16 public sector agencies.
“Possibly you will not get a single person who would say that he received any public service without a bribe or harassment. The public servants harass people to collect extra money,” Khandker Abdul Baten, a businessman, told BenarNews.
He said he had to bribe officials in the passport department in obtaining passports for his wife and two daughters.
“[T]wo separate police officers telephoned me to verify my address and other information. They met me at my office and asked for money. They gave a good report to the passport office without going to my house as I gave them 1,500 taka [U.S. $19] for each of the passports,” Baten said.
Dhaka resident Mohidul Islam complained that he had to pay a broker, or middle-man, 200 taka (U.S. $2.50) outside a police station in order to expedite his case of a lost identity card.
At every police station, brokers wait to collect such payments from ordinary people, particularly illiterate ones, Islam alleged.
“They collect money from the people for whatever service they seek from them. Can’t the police evict the brokers? The middlemen are the collectors for the police,” he told BenarNews.