The Dhaka South City Corporation and Dhaka North City Corporation did not take any steps although they knew the medicine procured for killing mosquitoes was ineffective, a Prothom Alo investigation has found.
High officials in the government wanted to hide the matter as 2018 was the election year, the investigation can reveal.
Dengue, a deadly mosquito-born disease, has spread to most of the districts across the country. The two mayors in Dhaka have now planned to change the medicine for killing mosquitoes. But by this time, medicine suppliers had already made hefty profits.
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) procured medicine worth Tk 140 million in the 2018-19 financial year while DSCC spent Tk 173.9 million to this end.
The DNCC purchased medicine from Nokon, an agriculture and pesticide supplying company, while DSCC purchased medicine from Limit Agro Product Limited through Dockyard and Engineering Works Limited in Narayanganj.
International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) tested the medicine and then ruled that it was ineffective. The government's cell to control diseases also said the same. However, even after DNCC tests found the medicine ineffective, DSCC was still using it.
Mizanur Rahman, one of the directors of Limit, said he was a manager from 1991 to 2009. After all the owners migrated to USA, Mizanur and a few others became owners of the company. They were supplying medicine during the tenure of former mayors Sadek Hossain Khoka and Mohammad Hanif, and they continued to do so after Dhaka was split into two city corporations.
Earlier, some other companies, including ACI, supplied medicine for killing mosquitoes to Dhaka City Corporation.
An official of ACI and owners of two other companies said they do not supply medicine after getting threats from different quarters.
“There are syndicates that take part in government purchases. The syndicate in DSCC is more aggressive and it is hard to make profits by supplying medicine to them.”
‘Limit Liquid Insecticide PHP-205’ produced by Limit is being used by DSCC to kill mosquitoes. State-owned company Dockyard and Engineering Works Limited in Narayanganj is supplying the medicine. Being state-owned, it gets work order without any tender.
According to Pesticide Act 1985 and Pesticide Ordinance 1971, unregistered companies cannot import, produce and sell pesticide.
However, traders and city corporation officials said Dockyard is not a registered company.
DSCC mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon said, “Both Narayanganj Dockyard and the city corporation are government entities. There is a scope of business between government organisations. It is no matter for us to see it whether the company is registered or not.”
On 1 February 2017, former director general of Agriculture Extension Department, Manjurul Hannan in a letter said the business between DSCC and Dockyard is illegal.
According to the investigation, Dockyard does not supply medicine directly. But their registered contractor company, M/S Belal and Brothers, purchased medicine from Limit and supplied to the mosquito killing office at Dhakeshwari in the capital. Limit, Belal and Brothers and Dockyard made profits from the deal.
As per the rule, medicine cannot be used if it is found ineffective in the test. In such cases medicine has to be destroyed. But DNCC did not destroy it and that let Limit supply the medicine to DSCC.
Plant Protection Wing and IEDCR at Agriculture Extension Department tested the medicine and said the medicine was ineffective.
About the syndicate, DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam said, “Medicine for killing mosquitoes is controlled by a syndicate. We would now import medicine directly.”
A number of icddr,b scientists observed that dengue virus carrying aedes were not being killed by this medicine.
The scientists presented their findings before the officials of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and two city corporations on 22 May 2018. A total of 21 officials were present at the event.
A high official at the event said this was an election year and the issue of ineffective medicine should not be disclosed, confirmed three officials who also attended the event.
Former adviser to the caretaker government Hossain Zillur Rahman said the situation has worsened due to the negligence.
About the syndicate, he said DNCC has admitted the matter already. DSCC should admit it as well and take immediate steps, Zillur suggested.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.