‘Government more active in controlling flow of information than in curbing corruption’
The current vaccine crisis in Bangladesh has been created as the government depended on a single source for it through a third party on political considerations, bowing down to the pressure of a business quarter, alleged TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman on Tuesday.
Dr Iftekhar made the remark while presenting the findings of a study of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in an online press conference along with the members of its research team.
The study, “Tackling Coronavirus Pandemic: Governance Challenges in Covid-19 Vaccine Management”, was conducted following both qualitative and quantitative methods and by analysing data in light of different indicators of good governance.
The TIB Executive director also said the government is much more active in controlling the flow of information than in controlling corruption in the country.
“The government has been trying to control the disclosure of information since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and this trend has strengthened further. We think the government is 100 times more active in controlling the disclosure of information than in controlling corruption,” Iftekhar said.
He said journalists and many others are being harassed by attacks or cases due to the government’s tendency to control the flow of information. “We think it is a suicidal move and the government should come out of it.”
Replying to a question, Iftekhar said checking corruption is surely a tough job, but not impossible if the government has strong political will and efforts to implement it.
He said those involved in corruption must be brought to justice and the Anti-Corruption Commission must play an active and impartial role in finding out the corrupt to reduce corruption.
Challenges, lack of planning
The TIB executive director said they tried to portray the challenges in Covid-19 vaccine activities in light of good governance indicators in their research.
“We found the deficit in the indicators of good governance in vaccine management activities. Especially, a third party was given the scope to get benefited by procuring vaccines in an ambiguous process by violating rules and laws,” he said.
Iftekhar said as public representatives are involved with the third party, it cannot have any business relationships with the government since it is prohibited by the law. “Despite that, it happened and we still do not get any explanation of it.”
“There is a strategic deficit in procuring the vaccine. Especially, the current vaccine crisis has been created for depending on a single source or institution in procuring vaccine jabs on political considerations due to the influence of a business quarter, causing stagnation in vaccination activities,” he said.
Iftekhar said the government announced to give vaccines to around 140 million people or 80% of the population, but no specific strategy and pragmatic framework have so far been formulated to accomplish the challenging job.
“Nothing is said about how the vaccines will be collected and distributed. In the budget speech, it was mentioned that 2.5 million people will be given vaccine each month and then it will take more than four years. So, we think the lack of a well-thought-out plan and framework is now the main deficit in this regard,” he observed.
He said the government could not ensure the access of the disadvantaged people to the vaccination program due to a lack of coordination in its implementation. "There is also discrimination in providing the vaccine as the registration process was difficult for the disadvantaged people."
Iftekhar said the risk of Covid-19 infection had increased in the country due to the government’s insincerity in enforcing the law to force people to maintain its guidelines and a section of people’s apathy to maintaining health safety rules.
He said corruption and irregularities in the health sector are going on as that happened in the past.
“Purchase and procurement rules have been violated, information about illegal transaction regarding the appointment of manpower has surfaced, work orders have been given in favour of institutions accused of graft violating rules and temporary hospitals were made without assessing the utility and those were later shut wasting the people’s money,” Iftekhar said.