Reshuffling of key positions in order to strengthen coordination and control corruption
The country’s health sector has been witnessing major restructuring and reshuffling amid the Covid-19 pandemic over allegations of corruption.
Allegations against their colleagues also are coming from top level officials who were recently transferred.
On May 2, the director of the Central Medical Store Depot (CMSD), Brig Gen Md Shahidullah, who led the supply chain of medical products, was transferred in a reshuffle and replaced by Abu Hena Morshed Zaman, deputy secretary general of Bangladesh National Commission for Unesco.
On May 30, Brig Gen Shahidullah sent a letter to the secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration, stating that an additional secretary (hospital) of the Health Ministry and the personal secretary of the Health Minister had forced him to give a work order to MediTech Imaging Ltd, a medical equipment supplier.
Following on the letter, on June 8, the government transferred Sirajul Islam, additional secretary (hospital wing) of the Health Ministry, and Wahedur Rahman, PS to the Health Minister, on allegations of corruption.
Besides, on June 8, additional health secretary (medicine administration wing) Ismail Hossain was also transferred to the Ministry of Land in light of the mismanagement at the CMSD.
Through taking such steps, the government has already started cleaning up the health sector by transferring officials. Besides, officials are also being reshuffled in order to ensure better coordination.
At the same time, the government is mulling the appointment of a new state minister for the Health Ministry to manage the pandemic.
Many public health experts have already recommended to the top management of the government the appointment of a state minister as the severity of the pandemic has been increasing and its impact looks set to continue for years.
According to sources in the health sector, the top management of the government has prepared two separate lists — one of officials who have allegations of corruption against them and another on inadequate performers at the key desks of the ministry, departments and major offices.
Health services division secretary transferred
The government has also transferred Asadul Islam, secretary of the Health Services Division, who held a key position in the health sector, and moved him to the Planning Division. Md Abdul Mannan, chairman of the Land Reform Board, has taken over as the new secretary.
Allegations of corruption were first reported when CMSD had sent ordinary masks in a box marked, “N-95 masks” to Khulna Medical College and Hospital (KMCH) and Mugda Medical College and Hospital (MMCH).
When the directors of the said hospitals made their criticisms of the masks known, the KMCH director was transferred to Pabna Mental Hospital and the MMCH director was made an officer on special duty (OSD), as punishment for speaking out on the matter.
Later, the Health Services Division formed a probe committee and the committee had also submitted a report which has not been released yet to this day.
The CMSD is currently involved in procuring a large amount of medical products worth Tk900 crore.
Allegations against Health Services Division, DGHS, CMSD
Sources said many allegations have come from the top management of the government that officials of the Health Services division, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), and CMSD were involved in unethical practices when it came to processing given work orders.
Currently, two senior staff of DGHS – Dr Samiul Islam, director (TB leprosy and STD Aids program) and Dr Iqbal Karim, director (planning) – are responsible for procurement for DGHS while additional health secretaries Sirajul Islam and Ismail Hossain were involved in procurement for the the ministry.
The government has been reshuffling key officials under the Health Ministry, following which the DGHS and other departments will follow suit.
As part of restructuring, on Monday, the government also transferred three deputy secretaries who were deployed at monitoring and coordination under the administration wing. A number of officials were also transferred to another ministry from the public hospital management wing.
When contacted via phone to ascertain his views on the situation, Health Minister Zahid Maleque was unreachable. However, on a live TV program recently, he said: “Initially, there were coordination gaps as no one had any experience of fighting a pandemic. But nowadays we can minimize the coordination gap.”
When asked whether the transfer of the secretary of the Health Services Division was due to a lack of coordination with him, he said: “We always wanted to work together to ensure better services ... The government takes necessary actions as and when required, in terms of corruption or irregularities.”
3,000 technical staff to be recruited
The government has already approved 3,000 new posts of medical technologists, medical technicians and cardiographers. Earlier, the government appointed 2,000 doctors and 3,000 nurses to strengthen the medical services.
Now the government is going to appoint technical staff to strengthen the fight against Covid-19.
According to the DGHS, the process is underway to recruit 12,183 medical technologists, 1,650 medical technicians and 150 cardiologists very soon, once the ministry gives the necessary clearance.