Transparency and good governance report in Bangladesh

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It is a matter of concern that the government has not adequately maintained fiscal transparency by making basic information publicly available. According to the US State Department’s 2023 Fiscal Transparency Report, Bangladesh did not make significant progress in meeting the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency. Most of our South Asian neighbours met the minimum requirements, with Maldives showing significant progress in that direction. Only Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan failed, while Bhutan was not assessed.

The report also evaluated other transparency-related performances such as whether the government publicly disclosed key budget documents, or has a supreme audit institution that meets international standards of independence, etc. In that regard, although Bangladesh government made its executive budget proposal publicly available, it did not do the same with its end-of-year report within a reasonable period, the State Department noted. Furthermore, the budget documents were not prepared as per internationally accepted principles.

Aside from that, two extremely important points that were highlighted were the lack of transparency in relation to awarding government contracts for natural resource extraction and the lack of independence of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (OCAG). As regards the first point, one may recall the questionable government decisions when it comes to extracting our natural resources, or how rampant corruption including “collusive deals” led to a perennially unstable energy sector. Consequently, while the nation massively lost out due to such government opacity, vested groups benefitted secretly. As regards the second point, although the OCAG has in recent times shown some promise by taking the lid off corrupt government institutions, the lack of independence granted to this constitutional body has clearly obstructed its work.

All this is quite disconcerting. Transparency and good governance are vitally important for Bangladesh as it assumes greater importance on the global stage. Increasingly, these are being used as yardsticks against which to measure the quality of our progress, which will also determine the success of our interaction with foreign countries and multilateral institutions. The government, therefore, must improve its overall transparency performance.

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