The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has identified 11 major sources of corruption and irregularities in the health sector of the country.
Corruption and irregularities prevail in every stage of the key sector, causing healthcare seekers to suffer a lot, the ACC said in its final report submitted to the president recently.
Such unethical practices mainly take place during the recruitment of doctors, nurses and other staff, and their transfer and promotion, as a vested quarter try to take advantage of the absence of specific policy guidelines on these matters, said the anti-graft watchdog.
The nexus between people in the service delivery and local brokers is also a source of corruption.
Another factor is the absence of efficient people in the purchase committee, which lead to misappropriation of public funds, as it purchases medical equipment without considering whether there are any skilled professionals to operate them.
The brokers force the people in remote areas to go over to expensive private clinics, said the ACC.
Other sources of corruption are selling government-distributed medicines on the black market, favouring some particular bidders unethically and enrolling students to private medical colleges in exchange for money.
Talking to the FE, ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood said the health sector is one of the major areas where corruption and irregularities still persist, making it difficult for people, especially those in remote areas, to have access to the basic government service.
Referring to his recent meeting with President Md Abdul Hamid during the submission of the annual report, Mr Mahmood said the president also expressed his concern over the corruption and irregularities in the health sector.
He also said the ACC stepped up its vigilance over sectors like health to combat corruption. As part of its efforts, the commission is holding public hearings regularly at various locations of the country.
"We will keep close watch on this sector and won't tolerate corruption anymore. We believe that we won't be able to take advantage of demographic dividend that the country has without eliminating corruption from the sector," he added.
Citing some proposals to stamp out graft in the sector, the ACC chief said they suggested hanging citizens' charter at an open place at hospitals and clinics for everyone to see. Detailed information about the stock of medicine should also be mentioned in it.
In its 27-point recommendation, the ACC suggested incorporating an expert into the purchasing committee and not buying special equipment for the healthcare centres having no skilled manpower to operate them.
It also recommended that each hospital should make public disclosure of the government-fixed medicine prices, diagnostic charges and updated information about the existing medical equipment.
When contacted, secretary of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujon) Badiul Alam Majumdar said the ACC has long been raising voice for stern action and zero tolerance against corruption.
"But the reality is different. Corruption is widespread in health, education and other sectors. It seems that the ACC does not have enough power to deal with this menace," he said.
"The ACC knows about the sources, then why it is not taking necessary action, which would create panic among corrupt people," he added.
Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the ACC's annual reports are much more analytical and substantive than before.
With regard to the health sector, the report rightly pointed out the prevailing challenges, he said.
He also said a proper strategic balance must be maintained so that ACC's corruption control activities do not get sidelined by its prevention initiatives.
"Both prevention and control are the ACC's mandate while control must get higher priority. Preventive measures would make sense and sustain only when the ACC is able to send a convincing message across society that corruption is indeed a punishable offence," he added.
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