The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will probe allegations of corruption in the purchasing of N95 masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).
"As masks and PPE are vital for the safety of physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers, the commission has taken the allegations very seriously and has decided to determine if there was any corruption in purchasing these materials," said ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood.
In the first week of April, a social media storm erupted with allegations of a supply of substandard masks to several state-run hospitals instead of N95 masks. Senior health ministry officials came under criticism as they tried to term the incident a "mistake," without conducting an investigation.
The corruption watchdog decided to investigate the allegations during a meeting on Wednesday.
ACC Director and spokesperson Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya told The Business Standard that the commission will now appoint an enquiry officer.
On April 20, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in a video conference, expressed her annoyance over the controversy and ordered a probe into the matter. The Health Services Division formed a probe committee that very day to investigate the allegations.
M Saidur Rahman, additional secretary (development) to the Health Services Division, headed the committee.
The committee submitted its report on April 29. According to the report, supplier JMI Hospital Requisite Manufacturing Ltd delivered research-stage N95 labelled masks instead of a general mask demanded by the Central Medical Stores Depot (CMSD). The masks were made from unauthorised imported material.
The report also suggested that the authorities take action against the officials who had received the products labelled as N95 masks without informing the CMSD director.
It also suggested increasing the number of expert personnel in the CMSD who deal with the demand and distribution of PPE. The report maintained that one needs to be alert when permitting the production and marketing of N95 masks.
ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood said, "We will appoint an enquiry team as early as possible. The team will enquire about everything and they may collect the probe report from the ministry and the related documents from the authorities concerned. They may summon the people concerned for questioning, if required."