HYDERABAD: Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS), Jamshoro, has been utilising the funds provided by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for the health insurance of its employees. The controversy, smacking of an apparent misuse of funds, surfaced on Tuesday during a hearing in the Sindh High Court, alarming the judges who ordered a five-year audit of the varsity's revenue.
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"Since 2015, they [LUMHS] have converted funds received through the HEC in[to] the health insurance of their employees which never seems to be [the] object of allocation of such funds by HEC," noted the bench comprising Justice Salahuddin Panhwar and Justice Fahim Ahmed Siddiqi.
The court was told that the university received Rs742 million from the HEC and Rs557 million from Sindh government for its current budget. "Prima facie, the amount allocated by HEC is only for the purpose of higher education ... there is no contribution of the employees with regard to the amount allocated for [their] medical treatment which they turned into the insurance policy," the judges observed.
The court ordered an audit of LUMHS' accounts by AF Ferguson and Co and asked the university to handover its entire record, including the received funds and generated revenue, to the chartered accountant company. The university was asked to pay the company for the audit.
In 2015, the LUMHS syndicate approved the insurance policy using HEC's funds. The bench's order noted that though the syndicate is authorised to make rules, it could not justify the use of a 'trust' for any other purpose.
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"It is an alarming situation that the [HEC's] funds are being utilised for the medical treatment of employees in private hospitals of their own choice."
Upon inquiry during the hearing, LUMHS Registrar Dr Roshan Bhatti and Dr Shahid Junejo, focal person of LUMHS, failed to provide details of the budget utilisation.
The SHC issued a notice to the HEC chairperson to provide clarification on the criteria of utilising the budget provided to the universities and to apprise the court if the varsities are allowed to use the same amount for any purpose. The court also ordered the HEC chairperson to obtain the budget utilisation reports from all universities.
The bench also asked the university to submit details of affiliated colleges and institutions while clearly mentioning whether these institutions have been approved by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) or not. The PMDC was also asked to assist the court with regards to the affiliation matter by deputing an official for the case.
The judges also put the Sindh Healthcare Commission on notice, directing the commission to collect details of the health insurance policy of all medical universities and to take action if any irregularities are found.
The LUMHS registrar informed the court that Aga Khan University, South City, Liaquat National and Isra University hospitals are among the private hospitals on the insurance panel.
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The court put the LUMHS vice-chancellor on notice to personally appear on the next date of hearing on September 22.
During the last hearing, the court had noted that the practice of seeking healthcare from private hospitals showed that the doctors of LUMHS lacked faith in the hospital of their own institution and this gave a bad impression to the people visiting the government hospital.
The bench restrained the university from using public money to pay for the private healthcare of its employees. "To this, there has been placed no legal or reasonable justification," Justice Panhwar said at the hearing on Tuesday.
An official source, requesting anonymity, said 6,500 to 7,000 people, including employees and their dependents, are covered in health insurance in LUMHS,
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