The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Thursday formed a four-member team to investigate allegations of corruption over the purchase of N95 masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).
The committee – headed by ACC Director Mir Zainul Abedin Shebly – is comprised of Deputy Director Nurul Huda and two assistant directors Saiduzzaman and Ataur Rahman.
Confirming the matter to The Business Standard, ACC Director and spokesperson Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya said the committee will dig out corruption in the health sector and submit a report to the commission in this regard.
Meanwhile, ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood said, "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 the material."
In the first week of April, a social media storm erupted over 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 anti-corruption watchdog decided to investigate the allegations during a meeting on June 10.
On April 20, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a video conference expressed 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 that committee, which submitted its report on April 29.
According to the report, supplier JMI Hospital Requisite Manufacturing Ltd delivered research-stage N95 labelled masks instead of normal masks that were demanded by the Central Medical Stores Depot (CMSD). Those 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 any official concerned needs to be alert when permitting the production and marketing of N95 masks.