Recruitment and promotion decisions taken by the head honchos at the Health Regulatory Authority (HRA) have been “against the rules”, confirmed well-placed officials and documents available with The Express Tribune.
According to a senior government official, ‘rules of service’ are blatantly violated as nepotism is rampant in the HRA. He cited under and overage recruitment, and the hiring of relatives and favourites, including those by the former provincial health minister.
The official backed his assertions with various documentation proving irregularities in hiring and promotions.
According to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Medical and Health Institutions and Regulation of Health Care Services Amendment Act, 2010, the HRA is a provincial regulatory body which has oversight of public and private health institutes, services and practitioners, including but not limited to allopathic, traditional and homeopathic medicine. As part of its mandate, the authority deals with malpractice and violation of standards with a view to safeguard the rights of patients.
Given such comprehensive oversight, how can a chairman, who has only held down the position for the last two years on the basis of a stay order, be considered a viable authority, questioned the official. HRA Chairman Muzzafar Khan completed his tenure on September 11, 2011; he still holds the post and is considered a controversial figure as he allegedly employs people outside the parameters defined by the law.
When contacted by The Express Tribune, Khan very briefly and sharply responded he is a responsible person. “The allegations are not true,” he maintained. However, Khan did not entertain further questions or address the allegations, as he claimed he did not have the authority to share information with the media without obtaining approval from relevant authorities.
Erasing the lines
The Election Commission of Pakistan’s order of January 21, 2013 banning all appointments was also not adhered to, it was learnt. The HRA continued to recruit people by backdating employment letters while individuals were promoted outside of the criteria set by the K-P government.
With the HRA’s ‘special recommendations’, Khushnood Ali, Inamullah and Saddam were all hired and promoted illegally during the ECP ban.
Too young, not young enough
According to the senior official, there are many loopholes which allow hiring underage employees. Those above the retirement age can only be hired after the chief minister’s approval. However, the HRA has crossed both boundaries.
Muhammad Afzal Abid, the son of HRA member Abid Iqbal, was employed even though he is underage. Another HRA recruit Mirza Shafqat Javed was hired as an inspector even though he crossed the upper age limit by almost 10 years.
Syed Abbas Shams was hired despite the fact he lacked experience and was still a student at the time. Shams is related to Syed Zahir Ali Shah who was the health minister at the time.
Faisal Khan and Asadullah Khan, senior inspectors and close relatives of former HRA chairman colonel (retd) Javaid Noor, were fast-tracked to grade 17.
Farooq Shah, Muzzafar’s relative, has been regularised as a legal officer (BPS-17) without any public notice or legal formalities. Shah had not completed his second ad hoc period, said the official. Another relative of the chairman, Sajjad Ali Shah, has been inducted as a junior superintendent (BPS-16).
These examples of irregularities in human resources in the HRA are by no means exhaustive. The official maintained almost the entire structure of the regulatory body is based on dubious recruitments.
Dr Ali Haider, a member of the working group for health sector reforms in K-P, said the group investigated the matter and found the role of the HRA chairman and other members “questionable”.
“Muzzafar completed his tenure and is still occupying the seat.” Haider pointed out the HRA was “highly politicised and kith and kin” have been employed.
“We will take up illegal appointments case by case and merit would reign supreme. That Muzzafar and others have their own modus operandi cannot be justified,” he stressed.
“After our investigation, we found nothing was in order. We have decided to revamp the Health Regulatory Authority in its entirety,” said Dr Haider. Action will be taken in a couple of days as the working group report on this matter has been finalised, he added.
Minister of Health Shaukat Yousafzai’s guidance will be followed at every point, said Dr Haider, adding Yousafzai was aware of the HRA violations.
He, however, pointed out the health minister deemed it “proper” to not take direct action and instead wait for the report. Shaukat Yousafzai who also performs the function of the minister of information was not available for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2013.