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SUKKUR: Sukkur Commissioner Mohammed Abbas Baloch has taken over the charge of the Ghulam Mohammed Mahar Medical College (GMMMC) project director from its principal Dr Abrar Shaikh to facilitate an investigation into alleged misappropriation of funds.

Dr Shaikh had undergone a lengthy interrogation session held last week by a team of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to explain how he came to own properties in several cities of the country and abroad besides undertaking several foreign tours over the past few years.

According to sources, the investigation was prompted by facts about misappropriation and misuse of a big portion of Rs480 million allocated for the construction of the GMMMC building.

The sources said that the FIR team had given Dr Shaikh a week’s time to collect evidence in his defence before the interrogation session. They said the session lasted about eight hours.

Following the session, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah issued directives for the handing over of the charge of GMMMC project director to the commissioner in order to facilitate the investigation. Later, Dr Shaikh appeared before the media but restricted his comments to the future of the project. He said the commissioner would now help resume allocation of the required funds for the completion of the remaining work.

The sources said that it took 10 years to raise a boundary wall of the college site and some small walls inside. What other works carried out during the period included the levelling of the ground. The funds amounting to Rs480 million released for the project was exhausted in carrying out these works which annoyed the stakeholders, including the chief minister.

Complaints about alleged misappropriation of funds and other corrupt practices in the project began to pile up and fingers were pointed at health and other relevant departments as well as consultants of the project.

Most of the complainants appeared to be doctors taking keen interest in the project who had been expressing their resentment over waste of time and money.

Some complainants said that the project, launched in 2005, was supposed to be completed by 2010 but only 10 per cent of physical work was carried out in a decade. The huge amount of Rs480 million stood utilised for the construction work originally estimated at Rs60 million that was needed to be investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), they added.

Last year, the college administration approached the relevant authorities and got an inquiry instituted through the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Medical University vice chancellor. However, since the project was being executed by the health department, an outcome of the inquiry was not made public. Eventually, the Sukkur NAB regional office initiated its own inquiry.

The Sindh government stopped releasing more funds for the project until the completion of the NAB inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Sukkur commissioner has seized the record of the project and ordered a scrutiny of the expenditure.

The project comprised a college and a 1,200-bed hospital having three medical and three surgical wards and an intensive care unit, besides facilities like cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, neuro surgery, trauma centre, treatment of all diseases, hostel for students and residential units for doctors and paramedics.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2015

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