DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh has suspended seven inspectors it accuses of negligence for renewing the licenses of garment factories in a building that collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 people, a top Labor Ministry official said Monday.
The official, Mikail Shipar, said a ministry investigation found that the inspectors never even visited the five factories housed in the shabbily built eight-story Rana Plaza building. He said one of the factories, EtherTex, had been operating without any license from the factory inspection department since 2008, while the others were licensed through 2013.
At least 1,129 people died when the building in the Dhaka suburb of Savar collapsed April 24, a day after cracks in the building prompted authorities to issue an evacuation order.
Shipar said the ministry's report was preliminary, and that if the accusations are proven the inspectors, all mid-level officials, will lose their jobs.
Inspectors are required to visit factories before issuing licenses, but Shipar said, "In the cases of these five factories, the inspectors renewed the licenses sitting at their desks."
While the number of garment factories in Bangladesh has soared in recent years, their safety is being checked by a relatively small group of inspectors.
Shipar says three of the suspended inspectors also were involved in renewing the license of a garment factory where 112 people were killed in a fire in November. He gave no further details about whether the inspectors are accused of wrongdoing regarding that license renewal.
Another government probe, formed by the home ministry, blamed the use of poor construction materials and unauthorized generators for the collapse of the Rana Plaza building.