The sheer lack of accountability and transparency at the country’s Central Medicine Store Depot (CMSD)

We are shocked to learn of the sheer lack of accountability and transparency at the country’s Central Medicine Store Depot (CMSD) and government healthcare institutions when it comes to procuring medical equipment. According to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), prepared for the period between FY2014-15 and FY2018-19, irregularities in budget spending by CMSD caused the government to lose Tk 459 crore in these five years. The report, placed at the parliament recently, revealed how this procurement agency had been involved in various malpractices.

During this five-year period, the CMSD supplied medical equipment to medical colleges and hospitals which remained largely unused. In many cases, it supplied the machinery without following proper protocols. Among the institutions audited, three – Khulna Medical College Hospital, Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, and Rangpur Medical College Hospital – alleged that the CMSD supplied those products unduly and without their consent, while other auditees said that the machinery in question would be installed soon. Moreover, in FY2016-17, different government institutions acquired medical and surgical supplies from CMSD at prices that were up to 18 times more than that offered by the Public Health Institute and the Essential Drug Company for similar products, which is outrageous.

The question is, can the CMSD just supply machinery without consent or request by the hospitals? Also, why would government institutions take supplies from it if they do not need them, and also at inflated prices? Clearly, the CMSD has been conducting these illegal activities with help from inside the hospitals, which must be looked into.

Our health sector has been riddled with corruption for long. The CAG audit report has just exposed it once again. Irregularities in medical equipment purchase are, however, just one aspect of the problem, with corruption permeating every level of the health sector, as the High Court has recently observed. We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the irregularities done by the CMSD in connivance with public hospitals, and identify those responsible for such a waste of public money.

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