Corruption in public hospitals must be stopped

The Daily Star June 03, 2021

Exemplary punishment has to be given to corrupt officials

We’re shocked to know that a hundred steel almirahs which would normally cost Tk 23,000 each have been bought at Tk 96,000 each by the 250-bed TB hospital in Dhaka, according to a finding by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) as reported by The Daily Star. Such blatant graft and waste of taxpayers’ money leaves us disheartened and feeling helpless. At a time when the country is undergoing a devastating health crisis, it is shocking how such activities are being allowed to continue in the health sector.

Unfortunately, this type of incident is nothing new in the country. Overinvoicing or overpricing items has occurred many times before. In 2018, for instance, the same hospital purchased 19 essential medical items or equipment at an exaggerated price. The ACC’s probe found that the former and current deputy directors of the hospital misappropriated around Tk 4.46 crore of public money in collaboration with the suppliers of the equipment. The said former deputy director initiated this trend by fixing prices of medical supplies at an excess rate in collaboration with the suppliers, floating tenders afterwards and finally giving contracts to those suppliers who bid the highest amount, according to the ACC.

For all latest news, follow The Daily Star’s Google News channel.

Another report published on July 10, 2020 highlights that more than Tk 100 crore was misappropriated by 14 contractors from the funds of various government medical college and hospitals. Once again, the ACC had prepared and submitted an investigation report with ample evidence and asked the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to take necessary actions. The DGHS took six months just to blacklist these suppliers/companies. As we can see, lack of coordination between ACC and DGHS is resulting in the embezzlement of a huge amount of public money.

It is high time some sort of monitoring and auditing was incorporated in public procurement in these hospitals so that no one can get away with such irregularities. The ACC revealed a significant amount of information on graft but most of the time their contributions remain unheard of and undermined. And even if someone pays heed to them, it takes months for something to happen. The government must provide the ACC with more regulatory power so that it can take decisions on its own without depending on others. Most importantly, exemplary punishment has to be given to those healthcare providers and medical equipment companies who are part of this kind of corruption, stealing from the public and patients they are supposed to take care of.