Purchase for Habiganj Medical College: Prices unusually high, but why?
12:00 AM, December 04, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:05 AM, December 04, 2019

Purchase for Habiganj Medical College: Prices unusually high, but why?

Sheikh Hasina Medical College in Habiganj spent over Tk 35 lakh to buy 450 anatomical charts for Tk 7,800 each supplied by a Dhaka-based company.

Such a chart can be ordered from online marketplace daraz.com.bd for Tk 496. On amazon.com, the price shown for these charts range from $8 to $25.95 (Tk 672 to Tk 2,179.80), depending on quality.

Mizan Mia of Habiganj town, who sells such charts depicting various organs of human body, told this correspondent that the charts are available at Tk 100 to Tk 150 each.

This is not all. The bills for computers, printer, projectors, weighing machines, furniture, books, and anatomical models submitted by two suppliers to the college authorities show unusually high prices compared to market rates. 

For instance, in one bill of Nirjhora Enterprise, the price of a set of Hitachi StarBoard, a 79-inch interactive whiteboard, is Tk 15.35 lakh.

On hitachistarboard.us.com, the price shown is $1,499 with a wall mount unit at $195. In other words, the interactive board can be bought for Tk 1.42 lakh.

Noman Khan, owner of Authentic Computer in Habiganj town, said he sells Hitachi Company’s 79-inch interactive board for Tk 1.35 lakh.

Similarly, a digital weighing machine for laboratory use has been priced at Tk 6.40 lakh by Punam Trade International in their bill, whereas on Amazon, the price of the costliest lab scale is not more than $700 or Tk 59,500.

In the purchase bills, 67 Lenovo laptops (model 110 Core i5 8th generation) were priced at Tk 99.49 lakh, each costing Tk 1.48 lakh. But the college bought laptops with 6th generation processor.

Besides, an HP colour printer (model Jet Pro M452nw) was priced at Tk 2.48 lakh.

Noman Khan said the same model of laptop that the college bought is available at Tk 39,000 to Tk 42,000 each, and an HP printer of the same model is priced between Tk 29,000 and Tk 45,000.

Classes at the government medical college started on January 10, 2018 with 50 students. It now has 150 students. 

In May 2018, Dr Md Abu Sufian, acting principal of the college and chairman of a six-member tender committee, called for bidding in two national and one local dailies for the purchase of various appliances including furniture, fixtures, books, journals, computers, printers and other education materials.

The committee included the then civil surgeon of Habiganj Dr Suchinta Chowdhury and acting deputy director of the district’s Population Planning Department Dr Nasima Khanam Eva.

According to the civil surgeon, he was not called in for any of the meetings relating to the tender.

Seven companies participated in the tender, and Nirjhora Enterprise of Dhaka’s Shyamoli and Punam Trade International of Motijheel were selected for supplying the goods at a meeting of the committee, college sources say.

Dr Suchinta Chowdhury said after he was sent the minutes of that meeting for signing it, he wrote to the principal questioning the request.

The rest of the committee members signed the minutes of the meeting where the decision to award the work to Nirjhora and Punam was taken.

But Dr Nasima claimed she was not on the committee. Asked about her signature on the minutes, she admitted to signing it later “out of official formality but she did not go to any meeting”.

“I won’t take responsibility for corruption, if there was any,” she said.

Dr Shahin Bhuiyan, president of another committee, formed to check the suppliers’ quotations with the market prices, said, “Since the purchase was completed in June [last year], the last month of the fiscal year, we did not have enough time to check the price of all the materials.”

He, however, did not say which prices he checked.

Dr Abu Sufian did not receive phone of this correspondent. However, in a press release issued on November 26, he claimed, referring to the entire purchase process, that “an audit with no objection was completed last year”.

A project involving around Tk 15.50 crore was taken up last year to make purchases for the college. Of the fund, Tk 1.61 crore was deposited in the public treasury for VAT and income tax and Tk 13.87 crore spent on procurement. 

But in reality, the value of the goods is not more than Tk 5 crore, says a source involved in the tender process.

The Daily Star obtained purchase documents and bills submitted to the college showing the questionable prices.

The issue first surfaced in local newspapers after senior journalist of Habiganj Shoeb Chowdhury applied for the documents using the Right to Information Act on October 15.

Deputy Commissioner of Habiganj Mohammad Kamrul Hasan said, “I have come to know the matter from different sources. Action will be taken on the basis of investigation.”

Tofazzal Sohel, coordinator of Habiganj Sankhubdho Nagorik Andolon, a civil platform, alleged that the college principal is involved in the corruption and he has also grabbed land near the Khowai river. Locals now demand judicial inquiry into the allegations, he added. 

None from the Nirjhora and Punam could be contacted despite several attempts.

ACC BEGINS PRIMARY INQUIRY

Yesterday, the Anti-Corruption Commission in Habiganj started a primary inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the purchase process of medical and other equipment and materials of the college.

Kamruzzaman, deputy director of ACC in Habiganj, said, “We started our primary inquiry on Tuesday morning and visited the spot. Then, we will send a primary inquiry report to our head office in Dhaka to make a complaint in this regard.”

He said, the final inquiry will start only after approval from the head office.

Also on Monday, Medical Education and Family Welfare Division under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also formed a one-member committee to investigate the alleged corruption.

“A one-member committee was formed to investigate the corruption in Sheikh Hasina Medical College on Monday after we came to know about it from different media. The committee has been asked to report within the next 15 days,” Secretary Sheikh Yusuf Harun of the division said.

Azam Khan, join secretary (construction and maintenance unit), has been made chief of the committee, he added.

Azam said, “After checking the documents of Sheikh Hasina Medical College, I will visit the college.”

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