An unhealthy health ministry
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has found itself mired in one corruption story after another. Starting from the scandal of fake N95 masks and subpar PPEs being found in public hospitals, fake Covid certificates being issued, private hospitals operating without a license, to a DGHS driver having somehow amassed Tk 1,000 crore of wealth—the extent of corruption taking place right under the nose of the ministry has been mind-boggling.
What is even more dismaying is how deep the roots of such misconduct go and how lax the government has been in holding those involved accountable. As reported in this daily yesterday, experts say that such corruption in the health sector is a direct "result of a long-running syndicate involving officials of the health ministry, from top to bottom."
In January 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had identified the sources of graft in the health sector. Along with listing the areas of corruption, it also detailed 25 recommendations for the ministry to prevent such graft. However, the ministry's response to this has been limited to blacklisting only 14 suppliers of medical equipment in June of last year. As for the fake Covid test certificate scam, it removed only the director general and some top officials of the DGHS, while no ministry official was held accountable. Instead, the then health secretary secured a promotion into another ministry.
As recently as last month, there surfaced another allegation of financial corruption regarding the appointment of 2,500 medical technologists in public hospitals. We would like to know if this allegation has been investigated and, if so, what the findings of the probe were and also what actions were taken.
In any case, it is appalling to know that this has been the state of the ministry of health during the Covid-19 pandemic. A ministry that should be the most proactive and be its most efficient in these times to serve the public is rather entangled in deep, systemic corruption. This is not just a pandemic issue, however. It signals the consistent lack of accountability and transparency within certain government sectors which gravely compromise the government's efficiency and prevent it from working primarily in the interest of the public, which it is mandated to do. The government must live up to its promise to root out corruption from all sectors. The Ministry of Health seems to be a good place to start.