Red tape stalls vaccine plant work
The vaccine manufacturing and research plant project in Gopalganj saw no progress over one year due to red tape.
So far, only a few meetings have been held and a delegation visited the site, raising concerns that the plant -- one of the top priority projects of the country -- may not see the light of day anytime soon.
The parliamentary committee on the health ministry in a meeting recently even asked the officials concerned to get a move on.
"Due to the government's complex official procedures, the project has seen almost no progress and I don't think the construction of the vaccine plant will start in one year," an Awami League MP, also a member of the parliamentary watchdog, told The Daily Star.
The MP said, "The to-do list they have placed will require a year to complete; then they will float the tender for the main project."
"But we [committee] have issued instruction to complete all the work within the next six months."
The lawmaker opined that the implementation of the project could have been faster if the government took the matter seriously.
In July last year, the government moved to set up a fully-fledged vaccine plant and research institute following the Covid-19 vaccine supply debacle earlier that year.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had also announced that her government was going to set up the institute as soon as possible.
But in reality, the development project proposal (DPP), the primary and crucial part of this project, has not been done even in a year.
In April, officials said they had submitted a pre-DPP to the health ministry, based on which they have been going ahead with other related work, including training people and sending them abroad for skill development.
Now officials are looking for an international consultancy firm to formulate the DPP, as per the requirement of the financier, Asian Development Bank (ADB), according to the officials.
The parliamentary standing committee during its meeting on April 3 had asked this issue to be solved as quickly as possible but the officials reported no progress made during the next meeting on May 22.
The institute, the first of its kind here, would have three components -- a vaccine institute, a vaccine packaging plant, and a research and development site.
The government-owned Essential Drugs Company Ltd (EDCL), which was given the responsibility to implement the project, was to acquire 6.85 acres near its factory in Gopalganj.
In reality, no progress could be made in this regard, apart from a few meetings between officials of the EDCL, ADB, and the finance ministry.
BSMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Sharfuddin Ahmed attended one of the meetings held on April 3 as a member of the EDCL Board of Directors.
He had asked if the tender could be floated immediately. He also recommended an amendment to the Public Procurement Rules-2008 as the existing law prevents quick project implementation.
Asked why the EDCL could not finalise the DPP in 11 months, Sharfuddin said, "There are many rules to be followed. But we in the next meeting will talk about ways to make the process faster."
Contacted yesterday, the VC told The Daily Star, "There was no meeting since the last meeting of the parliamentary committee. And I know nothing new about any progress made."
Asked, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, president of the parliamentary committee on the health ministry, said, "If we can complete all the [background] tasks by August, we can start the main project."