Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has given a statement in response to Health Minister Zahid Malik's recent comments on a TIB study revealing irregularities and the lack of good governance in the Covid vaccination campaign.
In reply to the health minister's statement that the TIB report was full of misinformation and TIB had criticised the government, sitting in an air-conditioned room, TIB said it had collected data from both direct and indirect sources following the internationally recognised research methodology of social sciences and verified the information.
Each data source was mentioned, so there was no scope of saying "the report contains misinformation", TIB said.
The minister also said, "TIB has said Covid-19 testing facilities have not increased in the country whereas testing centres have been increased from only 1 to 510 now."
Referring to the study, TIB said that despite the expansion of rapid antigen and gene expert tests in Bangladesh, RT-PCR laboratories were still in 30 districts. Out of 129 RT-PCR laboratories, 78 laboratories are located in Dhaka city and 77 are private laboratories.
As a result, the opportunity for sample testing of poor people at the district-upazila level has not been expanded much, and there are no RT-PCR laboratories in 36 districts of the country. People still have to wait for four to five days to get the report.
Regarding the minister's comment on ICU beds, TIB said that most of the government ICU beds are city-centric, especially Dhaka-centric. Under a project to tackle Covid-19, there was a plan to set up 10 ICU beds in each district-level hospital across the country but it has not been implemented in more than one year.
In reply to the statement "Allegations of corruption in the health sector have now become a fashion for many" TIB said that the last two episodes of its research on Covid-19 response activities had revealed irregularities and corruption in various procurement and supply in the health sector at national and local levels in the health sector.
Substandard PPE was one of the main reasons behind the death of many physicians and health workers of Covid-19. This irregularity/corruption continues at present, some of which have been mentioned in this study but no proper action has been taken against the irregularities and corruption.
Regarding purchasing vaccines, TIB said contradictory statements were made by the Ministry of Health and Beximco Pharma authorities. According to the Public Procurement Rules 2008, the procurement plan and the procurement agreement notices were supposed to be published on the CPTU website but it was not published.
In the context of Bashundhara Isolation Centre, TIB said that detailed reports have been published in the media on every issue of setting the priority of vaccination and vaccinating outbound passengers, and the information had been presented in the research after verification.
It is possible to play a more effective role in controlling the epidemic by eliminating the deficiencies identified by the TIB and taking various recommended steps, rather than calling the TIB report "outright false and motivated".