Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has said the attempts to procure equipment in a secretive manner before any project is underway, paves the way for corruption.
The TIB has expressed outrage and concern with the purchase of equipment in an opaque process for a so called temporary lab, even before the start of infrastructure work, at the Bangamata National Cellular and Molecular Research Centre (BNCMRC), reads a press release.
The corruption watchdog considers the way the project has tried to hire a particular company at exorbitant rates, as well as exert influence in a manner that does not comply with the prevailing government procurement rules, a naked example of corruption in the government procurement process.
In this case, the Ministry of Health will have to take effective measures to ensure transparency in the implementation of the entire project by holding the stakeholders accountable for such attempts instead of just ending the responsibility by blocking the tender process.
"The Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) was given a five-year project three years ago to set up an international standard medical laboratory. The infrastructure construction has not yet started. Yet, shuffling various excuses, on what consideration has the initiative to establish a temporary lab been taken so suddenly?" said TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
"What is the future of the lab if a permanent infrastructure is built? It would not be an exaggeration to say that it is a ploy to squander government money in the name of setting up a lab without a rational explanation of all these questions, when over Tk500 crore worth of procurement has been arranged, attempting to get the preferred foreign company to work at a higher price in an opaque tender process," he added.
"What is even more frustrating is the way the BMRC chairman has supported this illegal process of violating government procurement rules, and is embroiled in a tussle with the ministry, which is by no means desirable," Iftekharuzzaman said further.
Dr Zaman said questions arose after the project had been approved. Then a feasibility study report was approved cursorily and the project worth Tk1,500 crore was approved. Furthermore, purchasing goods even before starting the physical infrastructure work is also alarming and reveals to what extent irregularities and corruption can occur in the implementation of this project.
In particular, the Ministry of Health itself has found proof of irregularities such as the inclusion of members of the technical sub-committee in the tender evaluation committee, amending of the Draft Project Proposal to allow the preferred organisation to get the job, asking for permission to buy illegally in foreign currency, and not sending the updated progress of the tender to the cabinet committee on procurement, he added.
Therefore, for the smooth and corruption-free implementation of the project, all the relevant committees have to be formed and the accountability process has to be strengthened through strict supervision, he suggested.
Referring to TIB studies finding 8.5% to 27% losses in the procurement budget of various public sector entities, Zaman said that although there are allegations of various types of corruption in purchase and implementation in government projects, most of the time there is a tendency to deny any wrongdoing.
However, TIB welcomes the initiative of the ministry in the mentioned project. Just as such a special institution is very important for the progress of the medical sector in the country, it is also unacceptable to try to give any unethical special concession in the implementation of the project, considering its importance. Therefore, the ministry is expected to monitor the implementation of this project on time, with full transparency and effective accountability.