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20 January, 2022 06:05:19 PM

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How did Bangladesh handle the Covid scams?

To control the corruption and irregularities in the health sector, the Anti-Corruption Commission has initiated a number of inquiries. Unfortunately, the role of the ACC has resulted in a slow action in spite of serious criticism from a number of lawmakers from the ruling Awami League and opposition.
Shaikh Abdur Rahman
How did Bangladesh handle the Covid scams?

During the first and second wave of Covid-19, almost all the countries of the world, from the United States to Europe to India have witnessed dismay in handing the Covid fund, fake Covid jabs and certificates; Bangladesh is not an exception. In the United States, almost $100 billons were stolen from pandemic relief funds, reported in December last year.

Corruption is considered a second pandemic during the Covid medical emergency in India. As the world is facing the third wave of pandemic, it is time to have a look at the previous Covid corruption in Bangladesh and how they have been addressed?

Covid corruption

Covid-19 poses a number of challenges for politics, economy, and society. In fighting against the invisible enemy, corruption further complicates the situation. On January 15, 2022, a nurse has been arrested for providing fake Covid jabs in Italy. The Guardian reported that dozens of health workers had been charged with administering fake jabs in recent months there. Likewise, in Bangladesh, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Regent Hospital Chairman Mohammad Shahed Karim for his involvement in providing fake Covid-19 certificates. Besides, the N-95 mask scandal, Covid test forgery, and various fund embezzlement incidents have been unmasked by media and law enforcement agencies. Alleging with numerous incidents of irregularities and mismanagement, the Director-General of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Abul Kalam Azad was compelled to resign.

Anti-corruption measures

To control the corruption and irregularities in the health sector, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has initiated a number of inquiries and investigations since March 2020. But unfortunately, the role of the Anti-Corruption Commission has resulted in a slow action in spite of serious criticism from a number of lawmakers from the ruling Awami League and opposition. The health ministry audit report has found that corruption and irregularities took place both at public and private hospitals during the first wave of the Covid outbreak. The commission in July 2020 made a list of over 100 people including eight high officials of the health ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services, 20 government physicians, and 70 mid-level officials of the health agency. However, no concrete actions have been seen by the commission in materializing the initiative except filing two cases against suspended DGHS driver Abdul Malek and his wife.

Compared to the commission, the law enforcement agencies especially RAB played an important role in subduing the Covid corruption. In fact, the activities of the commission were followed by the drives of the agencies and media coverage. Along with the Resent Hospital scams, RAB unearthed the scandals of JKG Healthcare for their alleged involvement in the COVID-19 testing scam, Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital (SMCH) scams of fraudulence and forging Covid-10 test reports, and a number of operations against the deception and malicious health businesses. In April 2021, the elite police unit seized a large quantity of unauthorized, expired and counterfeit medical test kits of three organizations and arrested nine people for fraud manufacturing and marketing. However, except for some success by the RAB, corruption, and irregularities have continued in the health sector.

The operations need to be continued for creating safety and security for public health. Besides, the Anti-Corruption Commission needs to be more responsible in preventing any kind of future scams in the health sector. Government must strengthen its monitoring system to check corruption in public hospitals to ensure uninterrupted health access to all.

The bottom line is that the growth pattern of omicron is showing grave concern for a new wave and thus new fear of mismanagement and corruption which we do not want to see. Close monitoring and strict surveillance of law enforcement agencies need to be continued to avoid any kind of new Covid corruption, forgery, or embezzlement. 

The writer is currently working as a Research Assistant at the Central Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS) based in Dhaka.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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