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Sunday, October 21, 2012

[] digit-AL promises....

Wealth of Ministers, MPs:People kept in the dark

AL turns its back on polls pledge

Wealth statements and sources of income of the prime minister, ministers, lawmakers and their family members have not been made public even nearly four years after Awami League came to power with an electoral pledge to ensure it every year to establish good governance.

The ruling party made the pledge in its election manifesto before the 2008 parliamentary polls in the wake of serious allegations of corruption against ministers and lawmakers of previous governments.

The party's manifesto, which was amended in its national council in mid-2009, also included the same commitment.

But the present AL-led government seems to be following the footsteps of the previous BNP-led alliance government that also did not fulfil its electoral pledge to disclose wealth statements of ministers and lawmakers.

The electoral laws made it possible for people to know about the wealth of all candidates contesting the 2008 parliamentary polls, as their wealth statements were made public in line with the laws during the election.

The current government made a move to implement the electoral pledge in March last year, more than two years after it came to power in January 2009. But the move failed to yield any result.

And it remains uncertain whether the AL-led government will implement its pledge in the last one year of its tenure.

The cabinet purchase committee on economic affairs on March 16 last year decided to implement the ruling party's electoral pledge over submission and disclosure of wealth statements.

Following a meeting, Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters that he would send letters on March 20 to the members of the council of ministers, minister-level advisers and the mayors of six city corporations requesting them to submit their wealth statements to the Cabinet Division within a week.

He also said the Speaker would decide the timeframe for lawmakers to submit their wealth statements to the Cabinet Division.

According to Muhith, they all were supposed to prepare their wealth statements on the basis of the statements they had submitted to the Election Commission before the parliamentary elections.

The cabinet on July 4 last year, however, decided otherwise. It approved a proposal and decided that the wealth statements would be submitted to the prime minister. But it did not decide on whether the wealth statements will be made public or not.

Following the decision, the Cabinet Division issued a guideline, and wealth statements were submitted to the Prime Minister's Office in line with it, a senior official said yesterday wishing anonymity. The official said they received some related documents.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told The Daily Star on Wednesday that he submitted his wealth statement to the prime minister and also sent a copy of it to the Cabinet Division last year.

"The government will decide whether it will make those public or not."

Advocate Mostafizur Rahman, state minister for land, said yesterday, "On directives from the prime minister, we submitted wealth statements to her last year. We were not told anything about the submission of wealth statements this year."

Parliament has not yet made any move to ask lawmakers to submit their wealth statements.

Speaker Abdul Hamid said he did not have any such power to ask lawmakers to submit wealth statements.

"The government can do something to this effect," he told The Daily Star on Tuesday.

"Every lawmaker has tax identification number and they have tax files at the National Board of Revenue. So, I don't find any reason for lawmakers to submit wealth statements afresh."

M Hafizuddin Khan, former adviser to a caretaker government, said tax-related documents kept with the NBR are secret ones, and people don't have access to those.

"People can know about the wealth statements of ministers and lawmakers only if those are made public," he told The Daily Star.

On February 14, 2010, the finance minister said wealth statements of ministers, lawmakers and their relatives would be made public by June the same year.

But it did not happen, as the prime minister and a number of ministers on different occasions spoke against submission of wealth statements, saying they had already submitted those to the EC before the last parliamentary elections.

The finance minister himself disclosed his wealth statement to the public on September 5, 2010.

Legal and financial experts said submission of wealth statements will greatly help establish transparency in the government's functioning, and people will be able to know how much wealth a people's representative makes while in office.


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