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TIB: Health sector sickened with bribery and corruption

Bribes of up to Tk10 lakh change hands during the recruitment, transfer and promotion of personnel in the health sector, according to the latest Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) report.

The anti-corruption NGO said the bribes were taken by health department officials, officials from the civil surgeon’s office and by leaders of the ruling party.

The report titled “Challenge and Possible Solutions for the Health Sector,” prepared by TIB programme manager Taslima Akter, was unveiled yesterday morning at a press conference at a city hotel with TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman present.

In its National Household Survey in 2012, TIB found that 40.2% households seeking government medical services were victims of irregularities and corruption worth an estimated monetary value of Tk70.3 crore.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Mohammed Nasim rejected the report’s findings saying: “TIB always works to deliberately blame different sectors. They should show where the corruption took place as people are now getting free medical treatment and medicine as well.”

The minster, speaking at another program last evening at the capital’s Sasakawa auditorium at ICDDR,B, said action would be taken if a specific allegation was proven.

According to the study, Tk3-5 lakh is paid in bribes during the recruitment of ad hoc doctors while Tk1-5 lakh is exchanged in bribes during 3rd and 4th class employee recruitment, the report said. To transfer one’s posting, it costs administrative officials based in and near Dhaka Tk5-10 lakh.

Doctors pay Tk1-2 lakh to be transferred from the upazilas to the capital.

To remain in a preferred posting for a long time it costs Tk2.5 lakh or more, while a promotion requires Tk5-10 lakh.

The study, prepared between November 2013 to August 2014, was a qualitative research project.

The primary sources of data were medical service providers, employees and officials of the health department, specialists, media professionals and representatives of professional organisations.

The study collected its secondary data from the TIB’s National Household Survey 2012 and its report card survey of 28 health institutions.

It also highlighted the lack of regulation in the private health care sector saying doctors earned money on commission agreements with diagnostic centres, driving up costs of care, while brokers did a brisk trade in wooing patients.

Commission rates for doctors accounted for as much as 30-50% of treatment prices, and brokers bagged 10-30% in commissions.

The TIB executive director, Iftekharuzzaman, said: “We are concerned that the country’s budget allotment for the health sector has been gradually decreased. While it should be a minimum 5% of GDP according to international standards, we see that 0.84% of GDP was allotted in Bangladesh in FY2013-14 .”

The report points out that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends Bangladesh’s annual per capita expenditure on health care to be Tk2652 which is currently a mere Tk390.

“The development expenditure has also been decreased from 42.2% in FY2008-09 to 38.3% in FY2013-14,” he said.

“It is our observation that due to a lack of sufficient budget allotments and infrastructural development, irregularities and corruption levels are quite high,” he said.

Iftekharuzzaman said: “People are gradually loosing faith in the country’s health services. Rich people are going abroad for medical treatment while the rest of the people are suffering from poor health services.”