IN just one year, Health Ministry officials have misused at least $70 million of funds provided for a major development programme primarily financed by the World Bank and the governments of Britain, Canada, Sweden and the United States, according to an official audit report, as mentioned in a report of a local daily. The audit of the Health Population and Nutrition Sector Development Programme found that between July 2012 and June 2013, $69.8 million (Tk 542.9 crore ) was spent either on irregular procurements, unverifiable expenditure, or on medicine and equipment which were excess in requirement. The audit, refers to ‘collusive’ tendering, ‘fictitious’ documents, ‘fraudulent practices,’ ‘misappropriated’ money, ‘useless’ purchases, ‘misuse’ of money, ‘lack of financial propriety’ ‘violation of fundamental accounting practices’ and inability of officials ‘to justify the genuineness of payments’. The identified financial irregularities represent over 20 per cent of the total $321 million (Tk 2,498 crore) which the programme spent that year but since $102 million (Tk 796 crore) of the expenditure was not scrutinised in the audit, it reflects as much as one third of the amount of expenditure that was audited. ‘The audit is a tip of an iceberg,’ one senior auditor mentioned in the report. In many ministries and government department misuse of funds of outright thieving is common whether disclosed or not. There is no transparency and accountability and so there is lack of government as only political claims. Md Neazuddin Miah, the Secretary to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, accepted that there were many audit observations, but claimed that many ‘are very minor in nature.’ He said that the audit for 2012-2013 was ‘not finalised as we have asked the officers concerned to answer why they have made such irregularities’. He added that the Ministry was waiting for a response from the audit office about the explanations ‘before taking necessary action against the line directors’. It is quite astonishing that the Secretary to the Health Ministry claims that the observations are minor – despite clear and irrefutable evidence to the contrary. It is unbelievable that over 20 percent of two thirds of the total amount was openly misused—this in a programme financed by the World Bank and major First World governments. It is scandalous and disgraceful that funds provided for development to our nation by our foreign friends have been wantonly misused by the same bureaucrats who should in fact have used them for the betterment of the nation instead of lining their pockets and the pockets of their trusted suppliers. Instead of acting as honest public servants to the nation they have acted as mafia leaders by openly stealing money which was given in good faith to the nation. Corruption has become a political incentive and the result is corrupt ones found themselves powerful for abusing their offices and stealing without fear of punishment. At best few of them may be harassed by the officials of Anti-Corruption Commission. If they have enough stolen public money then it is most likely that in the end they will go unpunished.