Bangladesh is only behind Afghanistan, which is the most corruption-prone country in South Asia on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2020.
Bangladesh slipped two notches to become the 12th most corruption-prone nation globally on the index, but it maintained its overall score and rank from the previous year.
It had the same score (26 out of 100) and global rank (146th) in the CPI 2019, but was positioned 14th among the most corrupt countries worldwide. Bangladesh's score – unchanged for three consecutive years – is much lower than the global average of 43.
The Transparency International index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0-100 – where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is clean.
Bangladesh is also positioned as the second most corrupt nation among South Asian countries, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said while sharing its findings in a webinar on Thursday.
Among the neighbours, India scored 40 with a global rank of 86, Pakistan ranked 124th with a score of 31, and Nepal ranked 117th with 33. New Zealand and Denmark topped the CPI with a score of 88, while Somalia tied with South Sudan at the bottom with a score of only 12.
As Bangladesh's score remains significantly lower than the global average, the extent and depth of corruption in the country is still a matter of serious concern. The country also held on to the second lowest position in terms of corruption in South Asia, and the matter has been evident during the onslaught of the Covid-19 crisis, TIB's Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said while briefing the media.
He added that the TIB is urging the government to take more comprehensive, drastic and effective measures against corruption, and to go beyond "just promises," "culture of denial" and "short-range campaigns."
Dr Iftekharuzzaman continued, "Extreme corruption during the Covid-19 period and the recent rise in corruption in the financial sector may have led to the two-step decline for Bangladesh in the CPI index.
"At the same time, the Bangladesh Bank – regulatory body of the financial sector – has shown a gross failure to curb the debt default, money laundering and corruption. It seems like the central bank has been serving a vested group who are actually regulating the activities of the regulator."
Providing more details, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, "Even though Bangladesh's score remains unchanged, it is much lower than the global average, and Bangladesh is still the second lowest among the six South Asian countries and fourth lowest among 31 countries in the Asia Pacific.
"The situation is embarrassing and disappointing. We had the ability to do better. If good governance could be ensured through political integrity and strict enforcement of the law irrespective of position and identity without trying to deny or cover up corruption in certain cases, our score and position could have been improved further."
He added, "Corruption in the country's health sector amid the critical time of Covid-19 pandemic has also disrupted any possible improvement in the CPI ranking.
"Besides, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's declaration of 'zero tolerance' is the highest level of political goodwill against corruption, but it lacks implementation, and in fact is stuck in declaration."
The TIB has also expressed its deep concerns regarding the professionalism of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
"The ACC has been trying to hold those involved in corruption accountable, but to a certain limit. Just like the previous years, the ACC lacks effectiveness in bringing the kingpins to justice," he added.
About Bangladesh's score, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, "For the third consecutive year, Bangladesh retains the same score. While this may seem comforting, it should be noted that countries like Somalia – which scored only 9 last year – have managed to gain 3 points in 2020.
"So, there is no point in being complacent over Bangladesh's unchanged score. Maldives also gained 14 points compared to the previous year."
Bangladesh had ranked at the very bottom between 2001 and 2005.
Among the South Asian countries – Bhutan scored 68 (24th), Sri Lanka 38 (94th), Maldives 43 (75th), and Afghanistan 19 (165th).
Twelve countries that topped the list by points are - Denmark (88), New Zealand (88), Finland (85), Singapore (85), Sweden (85), Switzerland (85), Norway (84), Netherlands (82), Germany (80), Luxemburg (80) and Australia (77) Canada (77).
Worst corrupt countries from the bottom are – Somalia (12), South Sudan (12), Syria (14), Yemen (15), Venezuela (15), Sudan (16), Equatorial Guinea (16), Libya (17), North Korea (18), Haiti (18) and DR Congo (18).