PESHAWAR: A committee probing into alleged illegal consultancies of three doctors with World Health Organisation has recommended recovery from two of them and action against the third one, according to sources.

A fortnight ago, the health secretary directed inquiry into the consultancies by three doctors with the WHO along with their official jobs.

The inquiry committee has recommended that 20 per cent of the amount taken in consultancies by the additional director-general health services, Dr Shaheen Afridi, and Dr Syed Irfan Ali Shah should be deposited with the government while disciplinary action should be taken against Dr Bilal Bahrawar.

Sources said that the report was sent to Health Secretary Syed Imtiaz Hussain Shah on Wednesday and he was required to take action in accordance with the recommendations.

Officials at the directorate-general health services (DGHS) told Dawn that the secretary could take action against the officials above BPS-17.

Disciplinary action to be taken against third doctor over ‘fake’ NOC

The inquiry officer interviewed three officials and reviewed documents relating to the allegations and found that action was needed against Dr Bilal because he presented fake no objection certificate.

Dr Bilal claimed that he had been issued NOC by director public health for working with the WHO but the latter denied having issued it.

Dr Shaheen Afridi and Dr Syed Irfan Ali Shah obtained NOCs prior to taking up assignments with the world health agency. The former got NOC from Health Foundation, where she worked at the time of starting consultancy while the latter was granted NOC by health department where he worked as technical officer with former health minister Hisham Inamullah Khan.

“However, according to government’s rules, both have to deposit 20 per cent of their income from the consultancies in the government’s kitty. Both have agreed to do the same,” said officials.

On May 15, the health secretary issued a notification through which Dr Bilal Bahrawar (BPS-19) manager of the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System, was replaced with Dr Syed Irfan Ali Shah (BPS-17).

Dr Bilal petitioned the Peshawar High Court and got a stay order against his replacement on June 24, 2020 subject to the furnishing of an affidavit declaring that he was not performing any service in any other foreign-funded project in any NGO or INGO, said the notification.

It said that the documents revealed that not only Dr Bilal Bahrawar had been working with the WHO but Dr Iran Ali Shah and Dr Shaheen Afridi too took up the WHO consultancies.

The health secretary pointed that after the examination of the case, it was clear that all the three [officers] were guilty of misconduct, so disciplinary proceedings needed to be initiated against them and others, who were drawing salary from the government exchequer but were working with NGOs/INGOs at the same time.

The DG (health services) was asked to hold a proper inquiry against the three doctors.

The notification said Dr Shaheen Afridi and Dr Irfan Ali Shah had signed contracts with the WHO on September 23 and September 11, 2019, respectively though rules didn’t allow government employees to work for private consultancies. They were paid Rs1.66 million each.

Sources, however, told Dawn that Dr Shaheen Afridi and Dr Irfan Ali Shah were spared for taking up consultancies in addition to their government jobs while Dr Bilal was accused of committing fraud by presenting fake NOC.

A week ago, the health department asked all the officers to produce affidavit certificates stating that they were not working with NGOs, INGOs or any foreign-funded project.

The department asked all the officials that all such consultancies along with their government jobs were illegal and hadn’t mentioned that taking up such assignments had to deposit 20 per cent of their earnings in the government’s kitty along with getting NOC.

“Dr Bilal has to face the brunt because he has challenged the government’s directives of removing him from the post which infuriated the high-ups,” said sources.

The health secretary said inquiry report was not submitted to him yet.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2020