Parliamentary health watchdog remains inactive
Since Bangladesh was confronted with an unprecedented health emergency triggered by the Corona pandemic, a parliamentary watchdog was formed in January 2019. Since its formation, the Jatiya Sangsad (JS) body met only six times, according to media reports. Moreover, the committee utterly failed to show any visible progress in their activities. As a result, it could not ensure accountability and transparency within the health ministry. Therefore, healthcare services remain under strain, exposing corruption and mismanagement in this sector.
However, according to JS procedure rules, a standing committee must meet at least once a month. The reason behind this sluggishness is because of sheer indifference.
Currently, there are 39 parliamentary standing committees that are supposed to examine bills, review different activities of the ministry concerned, enquire into irregularities, and make recommendations. But this particular body didn't make any significant move.
While asked about the reason, committee chairman rather ludicrously said that he couldn't hold meetings because the committee members live in different locations. He also added that, after holding a meeting on March 24, they had fixed a date for the next meeting; but that could not happen due to the countrywide shutdown from March to May.
It is important to note that, till now more than 7,300 people have died with Covid-19 and more than half a million are infected in the country. Hundreds of new cases are still being detected every day. Under such ominous circumstances, the JS body's performance is truly frustrating. On top of that, the government's initial mismanagement and irregularities made the battle against Corona more difficult.
Misappropriation of funds while procuring medical equipment has become a common phenomenon. Fraudulent activities by different hospitals over C-19 tests and resignation of former director general of Directorate General of Health Services have complicated the situation. Unfortunately, none of these incidents could draw attention of the health watchdog.
Apparently, the standing committee is quite inactive and ineffective to tackle the ongoing crisis in the health sector. We are shocked to see the passiveness of the committee. During this time of a national health crisis, the JS body should have handled its responsibilities more sincerely and professionally. As the government is procuring vaccines and taking preparations to launch a countrywide vaccination programme, the role of the JS body becomes even more crucial.
We hope that the committee members will wake up and show diligence in the upcoming days and contribute in our collective battle against the pandemic.