ACC quizzes ex-DG of health services Azad over Regent scam

Thursday, 13 August 2020

The Anti-Corruption Commission has interrogated Abul Kalam Azad, the former DG of health services, over the health directorate's controversial deal with Regent Hospital to provide treatment for Covid-19 as part of an investigation into the allegations of graft levelled at the agency.

Azad arrived at the ACC headquarters in Dhaka's Segunbagicha for a second round of questioning at 10 am on Thursday, the anti-graft agency's spokesman Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya said, bdnews24.com reported.

A team led by ACC Director Sheikh Md Fanafilla questioned Azad, he added.

Azad was previously quizzed by the commission for over four hours on Wednesday.

The ACC said it had received allegations that some officials and other employees of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Directorate General of Health Services and Directorate General of Drug Administration, in collusion with each other, procured low-quality masks, PPE and other health gear and embezzled millions by supplying them to various hospitals.

After the interrogation, Azad claimed he was innocent of all charges.

“I want to make it clear that if anyone commits a crime, he should be severely punished. I will provide all necessary assistance in this investigation."

Azad resigned as the chief of the Directorate General of Health Services, a key agency in the fight against the pandemic, on Jul 21 amid a series of scams related to Covid-19 tests.

He came under public scrutiny in March when Covid-19 struck Bangladesh and gave rise to the scandals in the health sector.

It began with the ordinary surgical masks passed as N95, a type of respirator that is crucial for health workers in the fight against Covid-19, at government hospitals before the fake coronavirus test scams involving Regent Hospital and JKG Health Care started to come out.

The deal with Regent Hospital was signed on Mar 21 in the presence of Health Minister Zahid Maleque, Azad and other high officials. The hospital did not have a valid licence to operate at the time.

The authorities later sealed off the headquarters and two branches of Regent Hospital in Dhaka for issuing fake Covid-19 test reports and other irregularities.