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Global Fund report: Health dept ‘covers up mega bungling case’

Global Fund report: Health dept ‘covers up mega bungling case’

LAHORE: The Punjab Primary and Secondary Health Department has ‘dumped’ a report of the Global Fund (GF), an international partnership organisation, wherein it has levelled allegation of misuse of funds by the health authorities.

In a first communication of its kind, the organisation took up the issue with the National Coordinator Common GF Management Unit, National Institute of Islamabad, exposing many senior officials of the Punjab health department involved in the misuse of funds.

An official privy to the information said the report was forwarded to the health department to launch a probe at a higher forum to take the responsible officials to task. He said the report was put up before the health secretary, Ali Behadar Qazi, a few days back. He said Mr Qazi “dumped” the report while telling the officers concerned that since he had assumed charge for a certain period, he don’t want to involve himself in “any controversy”.

When an official told him that any delay in a probe may interrupt international funds, the health secretary asked the officials that he would not initiate the process and said, “let the next government decide the fate of this report.”

The Global Fund, or GF, in the report has alleged that the Punjab Primary & Secondary Health Department not only transferred funds to the non-FG bank account for unbudgeted procurement but also used logistics and transports for personal consumption.

Giving an example of misuse of a big chunk of the organisation, the GF stated that the health authorities transferred funds USD 240,000 to non-FG bank account for unbudgeted procurement.

In addition to that, the GF investigations took up issue of two Toyota Hilux Double Cabin vehicles of the organisation in the personal use and custody of a former officer.

In the first such complaint, the GF management also raised its serious concern about the utilisation of funds by the health department for non-GF officials and irrelevant health schemes.

The Global Fund is a 21st century partnership organisation designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. Founded in 2002, it is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases.

Primary & Secondary Health Secretary Ali Behadur Qazi held the previous admin responsible for the allegations highlighted in the report.

“Since the report belongs to the previous regime of the health department, I have nothing to do with it,” Mr Qazi said.

Addressed officially to Brig Aamer Ikram, National Coordinator Common GF Management Unit, National Institute of Islamabad, the GF highlighted anomalies in 12 areas, showing reservations about the misuse of the GF funds by the Primary & Secondary Health Department of Punjab.

In one case, “The Geneva office of the GF has taken up the issue on the basis of the findings prepared by Local Fund Agent (LFA) after a review of financial transactions in Provincial TB Control Programme (PTP) Punjab,” reads the letter.

“The PTP Punjab transferred USD 240,000 to Primary & Secondary Health on 26 Dec 2017 for procurement of unbudgeted two X-Ray vans through procurement cell of the Punjab government,” says the Geneva office of the GF in the official letter. It stated the GF Portfolio Manager (FPM) in his e-mail dated Dec 19, 2017 specifically wrote, “The GF Funds cannot be transferred to the procurement cell.”

There is no GF approval for procurement X-Ray vans by PTP Punjab and no approval is available for transfer of funds to “Primary & Secondary Health Department for such procurement”.

The GF asked Islamabad to make sure return of funds in question to the dedicated bank account maintained by PTP Punjab.

In addition to this, the GF granted approval to the PTP Punjab to construct two BSL-III Laboratories in Lahore and Multan at USD 101,557 each. “However, the PTP Punjab constructed only one Lab in Lahore at a cost USD 146, 643 over and above the approval budget,” reads the letter.

The PTP, it adds, did not seek approval from the GF for the extra amount that is 43.8pc over and above the approved budget.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2018

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