• Friday, Oct 23, 2020
  • Last Update : 03:12 am

N95 mask scam: 6 govt officials, JMI chief Abdur Razzaq sued

  • Published at 06:47 pm September 29th, 2020
N95 respiration masks
Reuters

JMI chief remanded following arrest

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Tuesday filed a case against six officials of the health department and the chairman of JMI Hospital Requisite Manufacturing Ltd (JHRML) Md Abdur Razzaq on charges of supplying and receiving fake N95 masks.

The six officials of the Central Medical Stores Depot (CMSD) under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) were sued as they were found responsible for receiving fake N95 masks from JHRML, the supplier, and distributing the masks to frontline healthcare professionals.

ACC Deputy Director Md Nurul Huda filed the case with ACC Integrated District Office of Dhaka-1.

The six CMSD officials accused in the case are Deputy Director Dr Zakir Hossain (now superintendent of Cox’s Bazar General Hospital), Assistant Director (Storage and Distribution) Shahjahan Sarkar, Chief Coordinator and Desk Officer Mohammad Ziaul Haque (now attached to DGHS), desk officer with additional responsibilities of the store Sabbir Ahmed (now medical officer of Dewanganj Upazila Health Complex in Jamalpur), Store Officer (acting) Kabir Ahmed (now on post-retirement leave), and Senior Storekeeper Mohammad Yusuf Fakir.

Including the JHRML chairman, the seven benefited through misusing their authority. They were responsible for supplying and receiving 20,610 fake N95 masks which were later distributed to 10 healthcare institutes, said an ACC statement.

Although CMSD officials are supposed to receive products only after they are checked by a survey committee, the 20,610 masks supplied by JHRML did not go through any such checking. Then the fake N95 masks were distributed, which put the lives of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals at risk, the ACC statement added.

JMI chief remanded

A Dhaka court on Tuesday placed Md Abdur Razzaq, the chairman of JHRML, on a 5-day remand.

Judge KM Imrul Kayesh of Dhaka Senior Special Judge Court passed the order after ACC Deputy Director Nurul Huda, who is the investigation officer of the case, produced Razzaq in court with a 5-day remand plea.

No lawyer was present in the court to defend Razzaq.

He was arrested earlier in the day by ACC after the case was filed.

The controversy

JHRML, a concern of JMI Group, became controversial after the scam was reported in March.

JHRML — a joint venture project with the Republic of South Korea — is a leading manufacturer of medical devices and their components in Bangladesh.

The issuance of fake masks became the talk of the town after healthcare professionals from different hospitals questioned the quality of the respirators.

Mugda General Hospital in Dhaka first raised the issue. Lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who is the president of the hospital’s management committee, in a letter to CMSD first drew attention to the matter.

CMSD had to recall the masks supplied by JHRML immediately after the controversy.

Brig Gen Md Shahidullah, the then CMSD director who was transferred shortly after the discovery of the scam, claimed that JHRML was asked to supply normal masks but they supplied normal masks labelled as N95 masks, which was a mistake.

JHRML chief Razzaq claimed that some employees of the organization had mistakenly supplied 20,610 masks kept under the label of N95 masks for research and development purposes.

After numerous healthcare workers raised their voice against the supply of fake masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) on social media, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 20 directed the authorities concerned to strengthen monitoring to ensure the supply of genuine masks and PPEs.

The Health Ministry then launched an investigation to probe the allegation that substandard masks had been supplied to several state-run hospitals.

In July, a probe body formed by the ministry reported that it had been a planned scam. 

The committee also found CMSD to be “irresponsible” and recommended that its officials be held accountable for the scandal. 

Md Sanaul Islam Tipu contributed to this report.

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