DGHS chief Azad quits amid scams | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 22, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:05 AM, July 22, 2020

DGHS chief Azad quits amid scams

Amid severe criticism and scams related to Covid-19 tests, Prof Abul Kalam Azad has stepped down as the director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

He tendered his resignation letter to the public administration ministry yesterday, Abdul Mannan, secretary of Health Services Division, confirmed to The Daily Star last night.

"The DG was a contractual appointee and he tendered his resignation letter there," he said, declining to say anything further.

Shaikh Yusuf Harun, secretary of the public administration ministry, told The Daily Star that he is yet to receive the letter.

"I came to know from the media. I did not get any such copy [of a resignation letter]. If he [the DG] tendered his resignation letter in the later part of the day, I may get it tomorrow [today]," he said.

Prof Azad had been the chief of the DGHS since September 2016.

In his resignation letter, he cited heath grounds as he has been suffering from chronic kidney disease for long, said a highly-placed source.

The resignation came amid a rift between the health ministry and the health directorate over signing a deal with Regent Hospital, which has been at the centre of the Covid-19 testing scam.

The DGHS signed an MoU with Regent in March, turning it into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, in a ceremony attended by Health Minister Zahid Maleque and many high officials.

The DGHS was aware that the hospital's licence had expired six years ago.

On July 7, a Rab mobile court raided Regent Hospital's Uttara branch and sealed it off. The court said it found proof that the hospital issued several thousand fake Covid-19 test reports, which prompted the rift.

The branch was sealed off in connection with issuing fake Covid-19 test certificates and collecting money from patients. Later, the DGHS shut down the hospital's branches in Uttara and Mirpur.

Both the ministry and the DGHS refused to take the blame and tried to shift the blame to each other.

Amid widespread criticism, the DGHS on July 11 said it was the higher authorities at the health ministry who asked the directorate to sign the MoU.

This explanation enraged the health ministry, which issued a show-cause notice to the DG the next day, asking him to explain the comment in three working days.

The health minister on July 14 said he attended the MoU signing ceremony with Regent Hospital at the request of the DG.

Prof Azad submitted his response to the ministry within the deadline.

In it, the DG said former health secretary Ashadul Islam on March 19 gave a "file note" to the DGHS upon request of the chairman of Regent Hospital, according to a highly-placed source.

After getting the directives from the then health secretary, DGHS Director (hospitals and clinics) Aminul Hasan visited the hospital before signing the memorandum of understanding.

The DG submitted all documents related to his claims over MoU signing.

He made it clear in the explanation that Health Minister Zahid Maleque was not involved in the process.

The DGHS has been at the centre of criticism following allegations of scams in Covid-19 testing, including that of JKG Health Care, which started collecting samples for Covid-19 from homes in exchange for money despite having no trade licence or the permission to do so.

Both the JKG Health Care Chairman Dr Sabrina Arif Chowdhury and its Chief Executive officer (CEO) Ariful Islam Chowdhury are now behind bars.

Prior to his appointment as director general in 2016, Azad was the additional director general for planning and then administration at the DGHS.

The government extended his appointment on contract after the end of his tenure. He had also worked as the director of the directorate's Management Information Department.

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