TIB finds gross corruption in COVID-19 purchases

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:15, Jun 16,2020


Transparency International Bangladesh on Monday said that corruption in purchases of medical supplies and lack of transparency in procurement processes were going on during the COVID-19 crisis.

At a press conference on Monday the non-governmental anti-corruption watchdog revealed findings from a study it has carried out recently.

According to the study, substandard medical supplies were issued at five to 10 times higher prices cashing in on the coronavirus crisis.

‘The coronavirus disaster is being used as an opportunity to make money,’ said TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman.

The TIB study found that there was a lack of transparency in procurement processes as no people other than a few senior officials know anything about the procurements.

There was excessive control by a syndicate over all kinds of procurement in the names of different firms and there were allegations of involvement of some officials of the ministry of health, it said.

Costs were not mentioned even in the written work orders. As a result, [personal] protection materials [for medical use] were supplied with a much higher cost, it found.

It uncovered that old-modelled PCR machines were procured while existing PCR machines were not used for COVID-19 tests.

TIB revealed that excessive rates were proposed in COVID-19-related procurements.

It found that in a fast-track COVID-19 project, the price was proposed for each pair of safety goggles at Tk 5,000 but the market price was less than Tk 1,000, for each set of Personal Protective Equipment at Tk 4,700 against the market price of less than Tk 2,000, for a pair of boots at Tk 1,500 against the highest market price of Tk 500.

Besides, Tk 55 crore was quoted for five pieces of computer software in place of average unit price of Tk 28 lakh, Tk 10.5 crore was quoted as four websites development cost against the highest market price of Tk 2 lakh for developing each website, the price for 30 audio clips was proposed at Tk 11.5 crore whereas a movie cost Tk 1 to 2 crore.

TIB also detected partisan political considerations in preparing the list of beneficiaries for relief in 82 per cent of the selected areas.

In all the areas, allegations of corruption were raised in distributing the cash support (Tk 2,500) among the ultra poor.

Affluent close relatives of the public representatives were allegedly included in the lists, and one telephone number was used for more than 200 beneficiaries.

TIB said that 218 incidents of corruption, with regard to relief distribution, were reported in the media until June 10, 2020, in which elected representatives (30 per cent), local political leaders (24 per cent), dealers (17 per cent) and business people (14 per cent) were found involved.

A total of 4,59,870 kilograms of rice, 30,855 kilograms of sugar, and over 8,000 litres of soya bean oil were recovered in these incidents, the anti-corruption watchdog said.

So far, 89 local government representatives — 29 UP chairmen, 54 UP members, one zila parishad member, four municipality councillors, one upazila vice-chair — have been terminated temporarily and cases have been filed against them in connection with corruption, TIB said.

TIB found that journalists and critical voices, who were criticising the corruption, were being punished under the Digital Security Act instead of taking punitive measures against the corrupt.

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