The Anti-Corruption Commission has made a list of over 100 people involved in various corruption and irregularities in the health sector as the mismanagement in the sector had been in discussion since the beginning of the novel coronavirus crisis.
The commission made the list following findings of its own intelligence unit and other intelligence of the government, an ACC director general told New Age.
He said that the commission officials are now hunting for information regarding the corruption suspects, including eight high officials of the health ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services, 20 government physicians, five principals of medical colleges and 70 mid-level officials of the health department.
He said that the people are allegedly involved in various corruption and irregularities, including recruitment irregularity, tender forgery, purchase-related irregularities, involvement in business and the accumulation of illegal wealth.
He said that officials were allegedly involved with different contractor firms working in the health sector as hidden partners or consultants.
Some of them had set up companies or supplier firms in their wives’ names or the names of other family members to supply medical equipment and accessories to the government hospitals and medical colleges, the ACC official said.
The commission, however, is dissatisfied over the health ministry’s belated move to combat corruption in the sector as it did not take any steps following the recommendations given by the commission in February, 2019 to prevent corruption and irregularities in the health sector.
‘I don’t know why they [health ministry] did not take any steps following the ACC recommendations, but it is clear that the ministry had not been sincere enough to curb corruption in the ministry,’ ACC chairman Iqbal Mahmood told New Age.
He said that the commission was now going to analyse and review its recommendations submitted to 28 ministries and departments.
He also said that the commission decided to finish the pending investigation into the cases relating to the health sector by August 31.
Iqbal Mahmood said that the health ministry banned 14 contractor firms six months after ACC recommendations.
He said that there was a serious problem in the system and the commission was now trying to find people behind the corrupt system.
Addressing the issue, Transparency International Bangladesh executive editor Iftekharuzzaman told New Age that the ACC’s recent move of recommendation of measures to various government ministries and departments was commendable.
‘But it will have no practical value, as has been embarrassingly exposed in the case of the health sector, unless the relevant authorities take concrete actions, the so-called departmental measures rarely works, if at all taken,’ he said.
He also said that the commission is expected to follow up the leads with the help of the relevant authorities to go for stricter action and thereby enhance the credibility of its initiative.
He said that this initiative is of preventive nature, and cannot be taken as an alternative to ACC’s primary and more important mandate to hold accountable those responsible for corruption, whoever they may be.
‘If such accountability could be ensured by way of some examples, public sector corruption in general, health procurement syndicates in particular, could be more effectively controlled,’ he added.
About the matter, health ministry additional secretary (development) M Saidur Rahman told New Age that they were yet to get any instruction from the administration wing of the ministry into the ACC recommendations to combat corruption.
When approached, ministry joint-secretary (admin) Shaheena Khatun refused to make any comment on it.
On June 9, the ministry banned 14 contractor firms from participating in any tender in the health sector as they were found involved in various corruption, irregularities and fund embezzlement.
The ACC recommended the ministry to do it in December 2019 as it filed nine cases against the firms for fund embezzlement in the health sector.
Of the firms, Rahman Tread International and Rupa Fashion was sued in June 2019 for embezzling Tk 5.90 crore from a project and accumulating illegal wealth worth Tk 31.50 crore by the owner of the firm Rubina Khanm.
Rubina is the wife of suspended Directorate General of Health Services accountant Afzal Hossain.
They misappropriated the money from a medical equipment procurement project in Dhaka.
Rubina had been an accused in another case filed in April 2019 for embezzling Tk 37.50 crore, the ACC official said.
The case was filed with Cox’s Bazar police as the project involved Cox’s Bazar Medical College and Hospital, said ACC official.
M/s Anik Traders and M/s Ahmed Enterprise were sued in November 2019 for alleged embezzlement of about Tk 10 crore.
The case was filed with ACC integrated district office in Faridpur as the fund was embezzled from the procurement project of Faridpur Medical College Hospital.
M/s Manila Medicine, M/s SK Traders, MH Pharma, M/s Ovi Drugs, M/s Ablira Pharmacy and SM Traders were sued in July 2018 for embezzling Tk 9.53 crore.
A case was filed with Kotwali police in Rangpur as the fund was looted from a project of Rangpur Medical College.
M/s Mercantile Trade International, Bengal Scientific and Surgical Company and the Universal Tread Corporation were sued in October 2019 for embezzling about Tk 6.6 crore.
A case was also filed with Cox’s Bazar police as the project was involved in Cox’s Bazar Medical College and Hospital.
Bengal Scientific and Surgical Company, also the lone accused in two other cases filed in July and September for embezzling respectively about Tk 16.61 crore and Tk 4.48 crore, while the company, along with M/s Ahmed Enterprise and ASL Ltd, is facing another case filed in November 2019 for embezzling Tk 9.15 crore.
The case filed with ACC Khulan district integrated office as the money was misappropriated from a development project of Satkhira Medical College and Hospital.
Blair Aviation sued in August 2018 for embezzling about Tk 8.74 crore from a health sector project in Dinajpur.
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