A couple of years ago I had written two pieces about the Padma Bridge corruption allegations and about the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)’s inquiries. One write-up was titled ‘Will the Anti-Corruption Commission pass the test?’ and the other was ‘ACC between passing and failing’. Of course now it makes no difference to Padma Bridge whether ACC passed or failed. After all, irked by the government’s indulgence towards those implicated in the Padma Bridge corruption case and by the ‘independent’ ACC’s loyalty towards the government, the World Bank, ADB and JICA had washed their hands off the Padma Bridge project.
The results emerged much later. Did ACC pass? Or was it an abysmal failure? Actually Padma Bridge is not the only subject where ACC is to fail; it is bound to fail wherever the government and the ruling party is involved in corruption. The government absolved the seven persons accused of corruption in the Padma Bridge conspiracy and the very next day ACC absolved the ruling party MP Aslamul Huq. Inquiries into allegations against Awami League’s former Health Minister AFM Ruhul Huq were also postponed in the name of ‘re-assessment’.
At a press conference ACC happily announced that a case was filed after initial inquiries into the allegations of corruption concerning Padma Bridge, but “we did not find any proof” after further investigations. Charges were dropped against the accused. ACC Chairman Mohammed Badiuzzaman said, “The World Bank claimed that there had been corruption in the appointment of consultants too. The media also reported about this. We made inquiries and filed a case in December 2012. However, after further investigations, we found no proof behind the allegations.” All seven accused persons are now free. ACC has also given a clean slate to former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain and former State Minister for Foreign Affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury, who were “under investigation”.
While ACC may not have found any corruption in the Padma Bridge project, there is a case in this regard in Canada. Journalists, naturally, want to know more. ACC Commissioner (Inquiry) Mohammed Shahabuddin, present at the press conference, gave his explanation: “The case in Canada is about SNC-Lavalin’s speed-money funds which they use to procure work in third world countries. Our case was concerning a corruption conspiracy. These are two different matters.” What a lot of misinformation he gave about the case in Canada! Did he not know what he was saying? Of was he intentionally giving false information?
The case in Canada deals with the Padma Bridge corruption conspiracy. They are looking into whether SNC-Lavalin are involved in the corruption, not whether they had given speed-money anywhere else in the third world.
The present Law Minister, as ACC’s lawyer, had been to Canada twice to find out about the case. It is hard to believe that the ACC Commission, in charge of inquiries, came up with such incorrect information!
In 2013 when the World Bank officially blacklisted SNC-Lavalin for 10 years, the company was accused of “misconduct” in the Padma Bridge project and also accused of corruption in a World Bank-funded project in Cambodia.
It is clear that Lavalin was blacklisted because of “misconduct” in the Padma Bridge case. Corruption in Cambodia was also taken into consideration. Lavalin not only accepted World Bank’s serious penalty, but also admitted to the charges of corruption.
In the meantime, we are at a loss to understand how ACC found no evidence of corruption at all. The accused persons are in the good books of the government. After a person is accused of corruption, if the government calls him a “patriot”, then what can the “independent” ACC do in a country like ours?
ACC has done its duty. The government’s favoured persons have been absolved of all charges in the Padma Bridge scandal. Now the government has to carry out its share of the responsibility. They must give compensation to the people who worked on the Padma Bridge project on their behalf, having to bear the blame. They should be honourably reinstated in their original positions. Former Communications Minister Abul Hossain, proven innocent in ACC’s investigations, should be given his job back!
AKM Zakaria: Journalist