LAHORE: A key aide of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has been rewarded with $85,000 for medical treatment in clear violation of provincial and federal rules, officials told The Express Tribune.
The Punjab government has allocated $85,000 to Jehanzaib Burki, adviser to the Punjab chief minister, for treatment abroad which is in violation of the restriction imposed by the federal government on medical treatment abroad at state expense for public representatives and government employees. The provision of such a large amount of money for one civil servant is also in violation of the Punjab Advisers (Salary, Allowances and Privileges) Ordinance 2002 as the amended Punjab Revision of Medical Facilities of Public Representative Act 2006, say officials.
This was told to the Punjab CM who still went ahead and approved the payment. It may be recalled that Jehanzaib Burki was appointed adviser to the CM on law and order in June 2009. Burki had retired in 1999 in BS-22 after serving as inspector general of police during Shahbaz Sharif’s first tenure as chief minister. Burki is a blue-eyed-boy of the CM and made a case for medical treatment on grounds that he wanted to save the government’s money. According to a document available with The Express Tribune, Burki told the chief minister that he was suffering from Renal Cell Carcinoma and underwent treatment in 1995 and 2007 respectively at the Methodist Hospital, Texas Medical Centre, Houston, US.
He pleaded that since he was constantly under treatment at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Lahore, at the government’s expense, he may be sent abroad for treatment which would save the government’s money. On his request, the health department constituted a special medical board headed by Dr Javed Akram, Principal of the Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore, to examine his case.
The board examined Burki on April 25 and submitted a report with the recommendation that Burki was in general good health and at low risk for surgery, but he should go through extensive treatment to delineate the extent of the Hepatic Tumor. The board recommended sending Burki to the same hospital where he had previously had two successful surgeries for evaluation and treatment on an urgent basis as the facility for Hepatic Resection is currently not available in the country.
The board estimated the cost of the surgery at $80,000. But on this recommendation, the health department on the same day (25th April) observed that the government had imposed a complete ban on medical treatment abroad at the state’s expense for public representatives and government employees. But there was a way around this. The health secretary maintained that in view of the board’s opinion and Burki’s extended services with the Punjab police, the chief minister could consider his case for a one time Grant-in-Aid as a case of “special dispensation” for his treatment.
The summary was sent to the finance department for comments on the same day by a special messenger. The finance secretary Tariq Mahmood Pasha observed that under the rules, treatment abroad is not permissible for any public office holder. Despite this, the finance department endorsed the proposal of the health department for approval of the chief minister to provide funds for the treatment of the patient abroad. On April 26, the finance department submitted the summary to the chief minister to approve and release funds for the treatment of his adviser abroad.
On April 27, the chief minister approved the summary and sent it back to the finance department via fax with the directions to release the funds in favour of Burki on the same day. In addition to the estimate of the cost of surgery, the chief minister approved the provision of an extra $5,000 for travel and accommodation facility to the patient. The finance department issued advice and audit copy to the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) on the same day (April 27) and the money was released as advance drawn in favour of Burki after office hours. The finance secretary had to stay back at his office till 5 pm to ensure that the funds had been released.
When contacted, an official of the Punjab Chief Minister’s Secretariat said the approval of funds was granted on compassionate grounds as a special case to accommodate an adviser who was doing key work for the government.