Exposing embezzlement: Health dept shows Rs7m as tissue paper expenses

The audit report has uncovered a number of discrepancies in the accounts

Hafeez Tunio August 08, 2014


The provincial tuberculosis (TB) control programme had shown an expense of Rs7 million for the purchase of tissue papers for its programme officers.

The health department’s audit report for 2009-10 revealed that there were no proper records or vouchers in support of this expenditure. “This irregularity has been pointed out to the department but no reply has been received so far,” said the auditor-general in his report.

The Sindh anti-TB control programme director, Dr Ismat Ara, avoided giving an answer by claiming that she was unaware of the audit report. The expenses were reportedly stated against the 2008-09 budget and an inquiry into the matter has also been referred to the anti-corruption department.

The audit report further added that four offices of the department failed to produce an auditable record for expenses of more than Rs21 million to the audit team. In the absence of such records, the authenticity of the recorded expenditures incurred by Civil Hospital, Sukkur, the Hyderabad Malaria Control Programme, the Nawabshah anti-snake venom/anti-rabies serology laboratory and Chandka Medical College, Larkana could not be verified.

The auditor-general has further expressed concerns over the Rs110 million that were retained in the private bank accounts of health department officials, rather than being deposited in the government treasury. “This amount was supposed to be spent on the establishment of an anti-snake venom laboratory in Shaheed Benazirabad and a medical college in Lyari, but the relevant officials deposited the amount into their personal accounts and received interest on it for an entire year by not initiating work on these development schemes,” said the report.

The report is also filled with objections over ‘non-invitation of open tenders for purchasing machinery at various government hospitals’. An example can be taken from the Rs96 million expenditure incurred on the procurement of machinery and equipment, dietary charges and furniture in the office of the health secretary, as well as in the Hyderabad Liaquat Medical University, Civil Hospital, Sukkur, and the Hyderabad service hospital.

An expenditure of Rs33 million is shown for purchase of vehicles without the approval of the competent authority. The cars were given to Hyderabad’s provincial tuberculosis control programme, services hospital and Liaquat University.

The report has also exposed officials working in the office of the health secretary who had drawn Rs11.48 million without citing a reason or purpose. “The amount was supposed to be paid to the actual payee, but the drawing and disbursement officer has drawn the money,” the report said. “Despite our repeated requests, the bank statement and acknowledgement receipts from various payees were not shown to the audit officials.”

Regarding irregular appointments, the auditor-general said that some people were inducted in the Hyderabad Malaria Control Programme and the Ghulam Muhammad Mahar College, Sukkur, without following the proper recruitment process, violating merit. “These technical positions have been filled without taking the technical qualification of the employees into consideration,” the report added.

The audit report also mentioned ‘irregular’ expenses of Rs23 million. “The officials of the health department working at various hospitals and programmes have spent this amount without any provision in the budget. This tantamounts to fraud and these officials should be held responsible for it,” the report said, while referring to financial rules. These ‘irregular’ expenses include Rs6 million in electricity charges with which the officials have paid the bills of their private residences using the government’s money. “This situation has risen due to the negligence and weak internal controls of the health department,” said the report.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th,2014.

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