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PESHAWAR: The health department has decided to vacate official residences from illegal occupants after receiving complaints that 91 bungalows and flats in 40 health facilities have been used by unauthorised people.

Some of the official houses have been under the occupation of the people working in other departments for the past five to 10 years. “It is affecting patients’ care because the genuine employees can’t stay in the facilities to remain on call for 24 hours,” sources said.

They said that such complaints had been lodged with department of health many times but the occupants hadn’t been dislodged and the performance of hospital was affected for want of doctors, paramedics and nurses during afternoon and night shift.

However, secretary health has asked the relevant authorities at the district level to get these residences vacated from illegal occupants. Last week, the health secretary through a letter took exception to the complaints of district health officers and medical superintendents regarding use of official houses by people of other departments.

The secretary also issued directives about vacating these residences immediately.

The secretary, in his capacity as principal accounting officer, told the relevant officials that the practice deprived rightful health professionals of accommodation on the premises of their duty places.

Additionally, such illegal occupation had also led to accruing of electricity, gas and other utility bills as well as maintenance and repair cost for the buildings.

He directed that in all cases where illegal occupants were health department staff members, the rent assessment on market rate might be recovered from them through the district account officer from where they drew their salaries.

“It should continue till they don’t give up possession of the houses,” said the letter. The secretary has also instructed the officials to take disciplinary action against such employees.

The letter said that the estimated maintenance and repair cost of such residences along with any outstanding bills of utilities might also be recovered from the pay of such employees.

In cases where illegal occupants happen to be civil officers with the district level departments including deputy commissioners, each commissioner of the division, in whose jurisdiction the health facility is located, must be informed through letters under signature of additional secretary to get the illegally occupied residence vacated and handed over to the health department.

The secretary has also asked for recovery of market-based rent from the illegal occupants from the date of occupation. “Recovery of outstanding utility bills as well as standard maintenance and repair charges from the illegal occupants should be deposited in government treasury,” said the letter.

It said that if the occupants were from police departments, the DHOs and MS concerned should inform the relevant DlG for similar action while in case of the employees of the anti-corruption establishment, the director should be requested through letter for same action.

The letter said that office of accountant general should be informed if the unauthorised occupants belonged to district account office.

It said that officials concerned should move the offices of deputy commissioners if the occupants were private persons including councillors and contractors etc for their forcible eviction from the premises and recovery of rent, maintenance and repair costs and utility bills.

The letter has also warned the relevant authorities to implement the directives forthwith.

It asked those DHOs and MS, who hadn’t sent information, to do the same as soon as possible or face disciplinary action.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2017