- 56% victimised in cash aid corruption, 15% in OMS card corruption
- Each had to pay Tk220 bribe on average to be listed for aid
- Corruption irregularities gripped 31.1% of virus dedicated hospitals
- 48.6% hospitals did not get quality masks for medical personnel
- Since 2 August, no Covid-19 test in 38 of 113 labs
- 35 districts do not have a Covid-19 testing facility
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has claimed that the pandemic-led crisis has created new opportunities for corruption.
A lack of good governance has led to widespread irregularities in Covid-19 testing, medical management, relief activities, procurement, and supply, according to a TIB study published Tuesday.
Analysing pandemic's data from 15 June to 15 October, the study titled "Governance Challenges in Tackling Corona Virus (Part 2)" said low virus detection through controlling policy and mechanisms is being touted as a political achievement – portraying it as "pandemic control."
"However, there are no testing facilities in 35 districts of the country yet. So far, 113 labs across the country have been designated for the virus test, but 38 of them have not run any tests since 2 August," said the study.
TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said, "There is a lack of good governance in steps taken to control the pandemic. The government was more concerned over controlling information than checking corruption."
Noting that there have been irregularities in relief distribution and medical procurement, he said, "In a case of corruption being detected, only minor actions such as transferring officials or making the individual OSD [Officer on Special Duty] were taken – failing to create an example of accountability in the end."
According to the study, test labs remain shuttered due to mechanical glitches, maintenance and virus infections inside the facilities. In many cases, private hospitals stopped testing when medical sample collection at booths fell.
The TIB report said although all of the hospitals under the study had vacancies for physicians and 89.1% had vacancies for nurses, no new appointments were made. ICUs, ventilators and other services required for the treatment of critical Covid-19 patients are still inadequate.
"Out of the total 550 ICUs, 310 are in Dhaka alone. However, the health directorate is claiming that there is no shortage of hospital beds and ICUs across the country," said the report.
The report said 3.1% of those who went to hospitals were not seen by a doctor or nurse. Some 34.3% and 48.7% of the service recipients got services of doctors and nurses once a day or on occasion.
Medical personnel at most health facilities were not provided with safety equipment of World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Ordinary surgical masks were provided instead of N-95 or KN-95 masks to 48.6% of hospitals.
Iftekharuzzaman said big businesses got benefits from the government-announced virus stimulus time and again while banks did not show much interest in distributing the packages among the ventures.
The report said there was corruption in medical equipment purchasing, testing, medical services, and relief distribution. Of these, 4.5% of service recipients paid an average of Tk946 in bribes to jump the queue for giving medical samples, 15% of service recipients were charged additional money for sample tests and there were irregularities and corruption at 31.1% of Covid-19 dedicated hospitals.
Due to corruption and irregularities, the survey found that 12% of the beneficiaries of cash aid and 10% of Open Market Sales (OMS) cards were victimised while getting listed. An average of Tk220 was paid as a bribe to be listed for government relief.
About three lakh beneficiaries have been named more than once for the aid. The names of 3,000 government employees and 7,000 pensioners were on the relief list, it added.
TIB says no public employee has received the government-announced compensation so far except the first doctor who died from Covid-19.
Further, in the case of cash incentives, 56% of recipients were victims of irregularities and corruption. In the case of receiving rice by OMS card, 15% were victims of irregularities and corruption.
The Bangladeshi branch of the Berlin-based civil society organisation – dedicated to fighting corruption – came up with 15 recommendation points. These included: health sector procurement in e-Government procurement (e-GP), the expansion of virus testing facilities in all districts, the utilisation of private hospital services through specific plans, the implementation of expert committee recommendations, and the proper implementation of incentives packages.