THE Anti-Corruption Commission’s inaction about the recent large-scale corruption allegations, which have made the headlines and drew public criticism, mostly in government procurement is worrying as it sends out a wrong signal of the commission’s capability of, if not credibility about, taking action in such cases. Media reports in the past three months have exposed corruption issues in the procurement for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, the Directorate General of Health Services, Faridpur Medical College and the Armed Police Battalion 6, which show prices of articles 5 to 100 times higher than prices on the market. Yet the commission, responsible to investigate corruption and ensure justice, has not taken any initiative to inquire about the allegations. The commission’s allegation scrutiny cell has not yet received any complaints from the complaints section about the endemic corruption in government procurement.
The first incident of corruption surfaced in May which showed irregularities in the purchase of furniture and other household articles for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant housing project. Simple furniture and household articles such as pillows, electric stoves, electric kettles, room cleaners, refrigerators, television sets and others were procured for prices 5 to 50 times higher than the market prices. Two government investigations found irregularities involving Tk 36.4 crore in the procurement. The next corruption issue appeared in the procurement of medical appliances and other materials by Faridpur Medical College Hospital, which shows an astounding Tk 37.50 lakh as the price of a bedside screen. The Directorate General of Health Services expressed concern about the highly inflated bills and an investigation said that the hospital authorities had submitted a bill of Tk 52.66 crore for the equipment worth Tk 11 crore. In another incident, the health services directorate general is reported to have paid Tk 85,500 for each copy of a book on surgery while the price of the book is Tk 5,500. Besides, the directorate is also reported to have bought 7,950 medical books for the state-run medical colleges for about Tk 7 crore. Another incident of corruption took place in 10 projects of Armed Police Battalion 6 in Khagrachari where the price of each corrugated iron sheet was 100 times higher than the market price.
The Anti-Corruption Commission’s lack of initiative in investigating large-scale corruption, under the circumstances, would suggest the commission’s inability and unwillingness to investigate how public money is squandered in government procurement. While the authorities concerned must investigate the corruption cases, which are by no means ‘petty thefts’, as a minister seeks to term it, and hold offenders to account, the commission must also take steps for punishment of the people responsible to arrest any misuse of public money.
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