Medical kit purchase: Tk 117cr lost to anomalies
When a piece of Personal Protective Equipment (medical coveralls) was Tk 1,200, the authorities bought 50,000 of them for Tk 3,900 each from a motor parts supplier.
The supplier, Jadid Automobiles JAI, with no experience in dealing with medical equipment and supplies, was also given another order for 1.5 lakh KN95 masks for Tk 520 each, when the market price was Tk 320.
The inflated prices cost the government Tk 16.05 crore.
The inexperienced firm delivered products late and 24,000 of the KN95 masks were unusable, which cost the exchequer Tk 1.25 crore, the report said.
The government lost Tk 117.53 crore to such irregularities, found an audit by Comptroller and Auditor General's office into "Covid-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project".
The project authorities issued supply orders worth Tk 59.40 crore to companies who had no experience with medical supplies.
For instance, it ordered MS SRS Design and Fashion Ltd for 1 lakh KN95 masks at a cost of Tk 27.50 crore. It ended up with poor-quality masks, said the report submitted to parliament.
The project, funded by the World Bank and taken up by Directorate General of Health Services in April 2020 to fight the pandemic, simultaneously bought the same product at different prices, issued supply orders to inexperienced firms, and paid suppliers without deducting VAT, income tax, and fines for delayed deliveries.
It also delayed paying taxes and delivering the goods to hospitals, found the audit conducted in just three weeks in 2020.
The project authorities also unlawfully assigned E-Music and MS Brain Station 23 Ltd for software development, the report added.
The Tk 2,550 crore project, scheduled to end in 2023, was supposed to buy necessary medical equipment, including testing kits, masks, and ICU beds. In January last year, the government revised the project and gave it another Tk 4,236 crore from the World Bank.
According to the audit report, 12 types of anomalies occurred in the initial period of the project when Prof Iqbal Kabir was the project director and Saiful Islam was his deputy. Both were removed following media reports on irregularities.
Yesterday, Kabir declined to comment and Saiful was unreachable.
Contacted, Shamimuzzaman Kanchon, owner of Jadid Automobiles, told The Daily Star on Tuesday, "I have received the work order following due process. If there was any breach, I have nothing to do with it. I have not supplied any substandard product and it is documented."
About the high prices, he said, "Those were high-quality coveralls and we had to collect those during an emergency situation. The information in the audit report is not true. Meanwhile, I am yet to be paid a huge amount of the bill."
Yesterday, he claimed he was paid only 30 percent of his Tk 31.90 crore bill.
During the audit, officials involved in the project dismissed any financial anomalies.
The audit report, however, recommended actions against the people responsible and realising the money spent without due process.
Contacted, project officials said there had been a few "official document gaps" when the audit was done.
Asked, the current Project Director Shah Golam Nabi told The Daily Star on Wednesday, "We have taken the report seriously. We will sit with the officials concerned at the health ministry, audit office and the World Banksoon and I will execute the decisions."