Cleaning out the kitty: Health dept comes under fire for missing funds

PAC asks health secretary to account for irregularities.


Hafeez Tunio August 04, 2011
Cleaning out the kitty: Health dept comes under fire for missing funds

KARACHI:


Anomalies worth millions of rupees surfaced in the health department’s finances when the Sindh audit department looked into its accounts.


The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) gathered at the Sindh Assembly to take a closer look into the financial irregularities and issued show-cause notices to officials asking them to explain the numbers within a month. PAC Chairman Jam Tamachi Unar presided over the meeting that was attended by the committee’s Shama Arif Mithani, Ghulam Mujadid Isran and Moin Pirzado on Thursday.

Of the health department’s 35 audit paras or concerns from 2006 to 2009, the PAC settled only five. The remaining 30 were deferred as the department could not come up with documentation to justify the expenses at different hospitals and institutions.

The irregularities included a lack of records, invitation of open tenders and deposits of government dues. The 35 paras amounted to Rs890 million of which the officials could only account for Rs50 million.

Unar felt that the department’s performance was “very poor” with counterfeit drugs and a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural Sindh, being the most pressing issues. He directed the secretary of health, Rizwan Ahmed, to look into allegations of spurious drugs being used at public hospitals. “Consignments of sub-standard drugs are coming from Punjab to Karachi and other districts of Sindh. We have to check to see if these sub-standard medicines are being used in Punjab hospitals as well,” he said.

The health secretary agreed and claimed that he was doing his best to address these issues since he took office a month ago. “We have made a policy under which doctors and other district health unit staff would be recruited through the public service commission,” he said. “There would also be a ban on doctors being transferred or posted for five years.” Local doctors would be given preference.

There was disparity among doctors working in rural areas, but the government has used rural allowances and revising their scales as incentive. As for sub-standard medicine, the health department has a strict fixed criterion and people of Katchi Gali who were caught supplying faulty medicines would no longer be trusted.

As the meeting began, Audit General Director Najamul Saqib Siddiqi said that Rs126 million was spent on buying supplies for Liaquat University, Hyderabad, Civil Hospital, Karachi and Peoples Medical College, Nawabshah. However, there was no record of them.

Ahmed said that he would come up with a record within a month, but the PAC was not having any of it. “Every bureaucrat has a different excuse. We want to see action against officials who have not made the records at the right time. This brings up questions about these officials involvement in misappropriating funds.”

The People Medical College’s management also came up in the meeting. The College has been upgraded to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University and earns large sums from its CT scans and other facilities. However, the money is not being deposited in the treasury and is going straight to the medical superintendent’s private account instead.

The audit revealed that Rs12. 28 million was spent on machinery and equipment at Sindh Government Hospital Liaquatabad, Karachi, Chandka Medical College, Larkana (CMCL) and Liaquat University Hospital, Hyderabad, in 2006 in but the machines have yet to be used.

CMCL’s MS Zulfiqar Sial said that he would try to use the machinery.

The PAC also addressed the seven audit paras for the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Sukkur. The DG Audit told the media that irregularities of Rs132 million were found in the board office’s account. PAC settled only four paras.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.

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