PESHAWAR: The government has started audit of procurement of diagnostic kits, machines, personal protective equipment and other items by the health department to deal with Covid-19 and has sought personal files of the senior officials involved in the process.

Director General Audit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in a letter issued on August 7 asked the director-general health services (DGHS) to provide him with personal files of the officers and other staff involved in Covid-19 purchases.

The officers involved in Covid-19 purchases include former director general health Dr Tahir Nadeem Khan, who is now director of Khyber Teaching Hospital; current DG Health Dr Niaz Mohammad; Additional DG Public Health Dr Shaheen Afridi; Public Health Director Dr Ikramullah; the deputy director of drug monitoring and evaluation, Naeem Khan; the deputy director of public health, Dr Syed Irfan Ali Shah; and deputy directors (procurement) Adil Shah and Zawar Ali.

Other officials including Khursheed, Shahab and Naseem and all engineers of the procurement cell and other staff also remained involved in Covid-19 procurement.

DG seeks personal files of officials involved in procurement

The letter entitled “Requisition for auditable record relating to Covid-19 expenditure”, according to the sources, has asked for personal files of the employees, which is unusual in routine audit of the department taking place at the closure of each fiscal year.

Sources said that personal files were provided to audit department on one-day notice and audit of the purchases made for the Covid-19-related activities was started. National Accountability Bureau Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also been in touch with the health department to probe the purchases for Covid-19.

The government on February 3 declared emergency and invoked Public Health (Surveillance and Response) Act, 2017 to pave the way for speedy procurement of medical and surgical supplies to deal with threats posed by the outbreak Covid-19.

The decision was meant to enable health department and its subordinate bodies, offices and institutions to take necessary measures for preparedness, prevention, control and response to the threat of the pandemic.

Sources said that it enabled health department to make speedy procurements without following the long procedures set forth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules.

They said that health department did not need to follow the lengthy process of bidding and tendering and got the required stuff as soon as possible because the provincial government wanted preparation on war footings.

So far, the province has purchased medical equipment and other material worth Rs770 million for strengthening the hospitals to deal with the situation. In the process, World Bank also pledged $3 million for the province.

Sources said that in many hospitals, the department supplied more equipment on papers but on the ground the situation was different. For example, 20 ventilators were supplied to a medical teaching institution in papers but there were only five, they added.

Similarly, the quality of the items was also criticised by the treating physicians at the hospitals and they communicated to the health department that the quality of the instruments was not up to a desired level, said sources.

Due to several complaints by the hospitals regarding the quality and quantity of the equipment, the government is conducting an audit to ascertain the real situation and recommend disciplinary action against those found guilty of illegal and counterfeit machines, PPEs, etc.

Sources said that it was the first time that audit department asked for the personal files of the officials because those had nothing to do with the audit.

Dr Niaz Mohammad Afridi, the director-general health services, told Dawn that audit was a routine process and they were bound under the government rules to provide any type of information to the auditors.

“We have provided all the information to the DG Audit as it is our responsibility. We will cooperate with the government,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2020