The health services division utilised only 21 percent of their allocations from the Annual Development Programme in the last nine months, said a report of the implementation, monitoring and evaluation division of the planning ministry.
On average, the progress of implementation of ADP of other divisions and ministries is 41 percent over that duration.
From its allocation of Tk 11,979.34 crore, the health services division (HSD) could spend just Tk 2,515.54 crore, which made it one of the poorest performers among ministries and divisions.
The HSD also showed alarming inefficiency in implementing different projects.
According to the report, HSD received Tk 6,447.78 crore as project aid from ADP and could utilise only Tk 664.94 crore, which is 10.31 percent of the allocated project aid.
This is also one of the lowest among 48 ministries and divisions that received project aid.
HSD was allocated Tk 5,531.56 crore from the government's own fund to implement different projects.
It could utilise only Tk 1,850 crore, which is 33.45 percent of the allocation -- also one of the lowest among ministries and divisions.
Experts expressed concern over HSD's inefficiency in a time of pandemic and grave crises in health services.
Zahid Hussain, a former lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office, said, "Sectors instrumental for fighting and coping with the pandemic are among some of the worst performers. This is shamefully true for the health sector, which has the lowest implementation rate among the significantly large ministries.
"It is shameful because even the biggest health crisis of the last hundred years appears to have made no difference to the implementation capacity of the very ministry which was supposed to be at the frontline. It is as if the commanders on the battlefield kept napping while the enemy was on a strategic retreat to mutate into a more ferocious force."
Dr Taufique Joarder, public health and health system expert and vice-chairperson of Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh, said, "Health services division has been showing such inefficiency for a long time. The reason behind such chronic inefficiency is we do not have the right people in the right positions in the health services sector. A very few policymakers of this sector have knowledge on technical issues of public health management, which seriously decreases efficiency.
"On the other hand, our recruitment and placement system are faulty. We recruit only doctors in the health sector through the Bangladesh Civil Service Examination, but without public health professionals, health economists, biostaticians, epidemiologists and health communication experts, an efficient health service sector cannot be developed," he added.
Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, secretary, IMED of planning ministry, said, "Slow financial progress does not mean there is no physical progress. Sometimes ministries pay bills to the contractors after thoroughly evaluating the projects, which may cause such delays in disbursing the funds.
"To increase efficiency, we have suggested not changing project directors frequently and not assigning more than one project to a project director. If all the divisions and ministries work in a synchronised manner, we shall be able to increase our efficiency," added Pradip.