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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa law department has objected to the health department’s agreement with the Sarhad Rural Support Programme under which the latter runs the financial and administrative affairs of over 500 basic health units in the province.

According to the sources, the law department sent a letter to the chief minister a week ago insisting the health department’s agreement with the SRSP is illegal as the latter has been given contract through a memorandum of understanding and without any competition.

It pointed out that after the passage of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Act 2012, it was mandatory that the government awards such contracts through open bidding to ensure transparency and provide benefit to the people.

The SRSP has been running 572 BHUs under its People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative (PPHI) through the signing of MoU with it, which is unlawful in light of the PPP Act, which makes it mandatory for the government to make partnerships with private organisations through open bidding.

The sources said the SRSP started collaboration with the health department for a few BHUs in two districts in 2007 and that within a couple of years, it was given the control of the health outlets in 17 districts.

Law dept asserts collaboration illegal as it’s finalised sans any competition

They said under the arrangements, the SRSP received total budget for the PPHI-covered BHUs to employ staff, provide medicines and carry out repair work.

The sources said not only the law department but health bureaucrats too were opposed to the agreement signed by the previous government, following the PPP Act under which all the government departments were bound to follow the laid down procedure prior to agreements and contract with partner organisations.

They said the chief minister was likely to terminate the contract with the SRSP because the relevant departments have expressed reservations over the unlawful” collaboration and wanted the government to follow the law to stay safe in future from different accountability offices.

“Nobody wants to put his or her career at stake. When the agreement was signed with the SRSP in 2007, there was no law but presently, there are legal procedures to be fulfilled for such deals,” a source said.

There is also another law passed by the assembly recently under which the government-owned Health Foundation has been strengthened with a view to enter into public and private partnerships with national and international non-governmental organisations and install equipments and ensure other facilities to improve patients’ care.

The Health Foundation will follow the PPP Act in award of such contracts, they said.

The sources said the government has already extended the contract of SRSP till 2018 but the law department has strongly suggested that it is illegal to go ahead with the contract without fulfillment of the relevant law due to which the collaboration could end up.

Meanwhile, the SRSP has also asked the government that it wanted to end the contract if it was not allocated Rs270 million as management cost for maintaining its offices.

“We received the management cost from the federal government until 2014 but after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, it was stopped. Now the provinces are required to pay the cost,” said a source in the SRSP.

“We have to maintain offices in 17 districts and one head office in Peshawar to monitor our BHUs,” he said.

The source however said the health and law departments maintained the management cost was not included in the contract and therefore, it couldn’t be paid.

Published in Dawn September 13th, 2016