A new survey on the performance of MPs by Transparency International Bangladesh is creating a media storm nationally and elsewhere. Since we released it at the start of the week, there have been hundreds of news stories, dozens of newspaper editorials and more than 20 hours of talk shows on nearly all our TV channels, not to mention massive internet commentary.
All this is testimony to the power of a research report aimed at strengthening parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh.
The report irked the government with its ground breaking revelations.
Out of 149 MPs (Members of Parliament) evaluated in the report, 97 percent of them were found to be involved in a variety of ‘negative activities’. Of the total 149 – 136 are from the ruling Awami League and 13 from the opposition. The study shows that the lawmakers hold too much sway over public bodies, control educational institutions, misappropriate development funds and even back criminal activities.
The survey also found that MPs influence the administration’s procurement decisions, break electoral rules, and in many cases provide false information to secure land ownership. The MPs consider their posts a ‘means of profit making’, the report says. However, the most shocking revelation is perhaps the 70 percent of MPs involved in criminal activities ranging from killing and land grabbing to extortion and manipulation of public tenders. Half of the MPs carried out such criminal acts in person.
One of the most troubling aspects of the report is the threat posed to democracy by undue influence over political decisions. 80 percent of those carrying out “negative activities” were involved in controlling the decision making process of local administrations or staff appointments and transfers within national and local bodies.