Records of a similar project have been examined to verify how justified was the cost of the machinery which the Planning Commission termed as abnormal. Some health equipment was purchased under the‘COVID-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness’ project, with loan from the World Bank this year. Under the project, 300 ICU ventilators were imported with an allocation of Tk 1.2 million (12 lakh) a unit. Besides, Tk 500,000 a unit was allocated to import a total of 370 cardiac monitors while Tk 200,000 for a unit of ECG machine (12 channels) and Tk 15,000 were allocated per unit of height and weight measuring machine.
Speaking of irregularities in procurement, project director and principal Md Asad Hossain told Prothom Alo, “The Detailed Project Plan had many structural flaws and didn’t reflect real prices of equipment.” He said, “It’s true that rules have been violated in purchasing machinery, but with the good intention of ensuring the quality of the equipment.” Asked machinery not included in the main project was purchased, he said, “I’m admitting that rules have been violated. But I tried to bring in good equipment. That’s why prices went up. If I land in jail for this, there is nothing to be done.”
Experts disagree with the project director. Officials at the planning commission’s Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) said, procurement prices can vary a bit but it can’t be such big difference. It the cost exceeds the budget then the commission must be informed. These rules were not followed.”
Need for accountability
Executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Iftekharuzzaman told Prothom Alo, “From what has been learnt about the procurement of this machinery, this has outdone any monstrous fraud. Making money from development projects has become a tradition in our country. A political and administrative nexus is amassing wealth.”
He said, “The allegations of irregularities in procurement involves public funds. As a regulatory body, the health ministry should scrutinise these irregularities. The Anti-Corruption Commission too has the responsibility. Those involved in the irregularities must be held accountable. Exemplary punishment must be ensured otherwise such incidents will continue to occur.”