Mohammed Hossain from Australia
James D Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, made a remarkable comment at the 2007 annual meeting of the World Bank-IMF: '... corruption is a problem that all countries have to confront. Solutions, however, can only be home-grown. National leaders need to take a stand. The civil society plays a key role as well'. How to raise awareness against corruption in the context of Bangladesh? What role can the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) play?
Corruption is a complex issue and it is rooted in a country's social and cultural history, political and economic development, bureaucratic tradition and policies. Corruption exists both in developed and developing countries.
The Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer is the largest cross-country survey of general public's views on, and experiences of, corruption. In the study in 2010/2011, they interviewed more than 100,000 people in 100 countries. They explored the general public's views about corruption levels in their respective countries as well as their governments' efforts to fight corruption. As per the perceptions of corruption, some areas were identified as most corrupt around the world. In the descending order of corruption prevalence, they were political parties, police, judiciary, parliament, business/private sector, public officials/civil servants, education system, media and religious bodies.
How can we minimise corruption in the country and particularly in those areas? Importance should be given to the need of raising awareness of general public about corruption. In order to raise public awareness and uphold moral and ethical values, we need to start with the teaching of ethics. Once the people learn ethics, moral values and other social norms in their course of education at the secondary or undergraduate or graduate level, the impact of this education will definitely be good. This will contribute towards the fight against corruption. The theories regarding corruption should be interpreted in the context of actual and/or likely human behaviour and interaction. Therefore, we should give priority to teaching the ethical education.
When this writer was teaching at Qatar University, he found in their curriculum that every student has to take the mandatory university core courses regardless of any subject chosen and one course was on 'ethics'. Probably, this is the best way to teach and educate students and raise their awareness about ethical value. When the students will later hold various positions in different institutions, they will adhere to ethical values while making any decision. This will obviously help reduce the level of corruption in the society. The education ministry should think about how we can accommodate a course on ethics in the education system in Bangladesh. The authorities can include a mandatory general course on 'ethical issues' for the students in the age group of 10 to 12 years, then come to specific 'ethical' issues or standards or code of conduct, mandatory courses at undergraduate or graduate levels for would-be businessmen, civil administration officials, engineers, lawyers, politicians, physicians, teachers etc. When this kind of education will be introduced, the level of ethical standard of students will increase. The students will adhere to the ethical values or code of conduct in their capacity while serving with their respective institutions. In the long run, corruption in different institutions will come down to a minimum level. Without such education, we cannot expect a corruption-free country as a whole. Alongside ethical education, the institutions also need to provide a structural framework that removes the possibility of corrupt practices.
This writer visited the Karekare beach park in New Zealand a few weeks ago. Before entering the park, he caught sight of written 'park codes'. It means visitors must follow the codes when entering the park (for example, no mountain biking is allowed). We need to understand the importance of codes of conduct in every aspect. We have codes of conduct for professionals like police, justices, engineers, civil servants and physicians. We do not possibly have any code of conduct for politicians. This writer dealt with this issue in an article titled, 'Do politicians need a code of conduct?' which was published in The Financial Express on September 13, 2008.
This article is not intended to highlight institutional corruption, but to seek how we can build a platform at the grassroots level by accommodating ethical standards in the educational system and by ensuring strict enforcement of codes of conduct for rooting out corruption from our society. It will benefit us in the long run. So the first issue is to develop a course on 'ethics' and then accommodate it in syllabuses for students. And the government should create an administrative authority, namely 'Enforcement and Policy Department' under the Ministry of Law, to oversee the professionals' adherence to codes of conduct. Once a separate department is created to guard against breach of the codes of conduct for different groups of professionals, this would have a positive impact on the society if it works impartially.
Dr Mohammed Hossain is a lecturer in Accounting, Griffith Business School, Nithan Campus, QLD, Australia. mohammed.