KARACHI: Sindh’s public sector hospitals and medical colleges came under fire during the meeting of Sindh Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday.
The main issue was buying spurious medicines and irregularities in the money spent by public hospitals to buy equipment.
The officials of the audit department briefed the committee members. While giving details, they said that the administration of the Government Hospital, Saudabad in Karachi, and the Services hospitals in Karachi and Hyderabad, bought medicines worth Rs62 million, from 2007 till 2009, but did not have the drugs tested by a lab. From 2006 to 2009, there were irregularities in millions of rupees which was used to buy equipment.
The audit officials said that Rs12.3 million was paid to the health department for equipment for government hospitals. The equipment was bought, but it was not used.
Government Hospital, Liaquatabad bought mammography machines worth Rs4000,000 for their breast cancer diagnostic centre in 2005. “But the machine has not been installed yet,” said one of the audit officers. When the medical superintendent was asked why, he said that since the centre’s building had not been built they could not install the machine. He said that if the money would not have been used to buy the mammography machine then the budget would have lapsed. “We did not have trained staff otherwise the equipment could have been used,” he said. According to Audit DG Ghulam Akbar Sohu, Liaquat University Hospital, Jamshoro took around Rs14 million to buy equipment in 2008. But instead of doing that, the money was transferred into personal accounts of the officers who drew the money and disbursed it. On the other hand, the hospital officials were under the illusion that the money was transferred into the hospital’s account but there was something wrong with the records.
Sohu said that Rs63 million was spent on medicines and equipment for hospitals in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and other hospitals without inviting tenders, which was illegal. He said that Liaquat University Hospital, Hyderabad had purchased medicine worth Rs8 million, at higher rates. The committee then asked the health secretary to issue show-cause notices to hospital administrations.
The audit records showed irregularities in the money spent on ambulances. Around Rs6.6 million were spent by hospitals without the approval of higher officials. Moreover, Rs19 million, collected via CT scan charges and student fees, was used up by the hospital administration for other projects. But the medical superintendent of Civil Hospital, Karachi and the principal of Shaheed Benazirabad Medical University, Nawabshah argued that they were allowed by law to do so.
To this Sohu retorted, “It seems that these people [the doctors] have made up their own rules by violating the ones prescribed by the government.” The PAC chairman, Jam Tamachi Unar, then asked his secretary to seek the opinion of finance department for the matter.
Following up on the complaints, the committee said that they will write to the chief minister, governor, health minister and the chief secretary to take strict action against the responsible officials.
Chairman Unar also suggested that the board of governors be revived to look after the public hospitals.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.
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