KARACHI: The provincial government has consumed over Rs3 billion of the Coronavirus Emergency Fund (CEF) that had been set up by the Sindh government in March this year and it is now left with no more finances to deal with the second wave of the pandemic, officials and sources said.
They said that the CEF was established by the Sindh government on March 18 to support the fight against the coronavirus pandemic through immediate mobilisation of required resources. A high-powered committee headed by Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah was also constituted to manage the various activities of the CEF.
“In order to ensure transparency and technically sound decisions, the committee has adequate representation of private sector with requisite technical expertise,” said a source citing details of the committee’s performance. “These members include Dr Abdul Bari [CEO of the Indus Hospital], Mushtaq Chhapra [renowned philanthropist] and Faisal Edhi [Edhi Foundation]. Other members of the committee included finance and health secretaries.”
The contribution in the CEF, he said, was made from both public as well as private sector, with the Sindh government contributing around Rs3.3bn mainly from salary contributions of government employees and autonomous bodies, as well as from the provincial government’s Social Relief Fund. The private donations from both local and foreign donors also contributed to the fund, which swelled to around Rs3.6bn, he added.
“The CEF committee was tasked with allocating resources and overseeing expenditure to supplement the Sindh government’s efforts in combating coronavirus emergency. Accordingly, the CEF committee held regular meetings and took requisite actions to ensure effective and transparent utilisation of the fund,” he added.
Murtaza Wahab says CM will discuss future plan for CEF after his recovery
Some key decisions taken by the CEF committee so far include disbursement of Rs133.94 million and Rs30m to the management of the Field Isolation Centre of Expo Centre and PAF Museum, respectively, which were established through joint efforts of the Sindh government and the Pakistan army and aviation authorities, he said.
“A purchase committee was also established to ensure judicious and technically sound procurement of urgently required medical supplies to properly equip health facilities in the province to deal with coronavirus emergency. Immediate purchase orders of over Rs2.05bn were issued for urgently required medical supplies, including PCR testing kits, rapid testing kits, PPE suits, oxygen cylinders, N-95 and surgical masks, suction machines, thermal guns, defibrillators, BP apparatus, medicine, sanitizers, biohazard bags, etc,” said the source.
He said that a reputable external auditor was also engaged for transaction review to ensure transparency in the management of the CEF and services of a quality assurance firm were also acquired for inspection of medical supplies and items received by the health department.
After a few months, he said, the CEF managed to build capacity of hospitals and different health facilities across the province, which helped meet the challenge successfully during the first wave of the pandemic.
“The CEF has almost done its job,” he said. “All the purchases were made and a few are in process. The funds were consumed under a due process and to ensure smooth facilitation as well as transparency for private donors, the finance department has established a link [https://fd.sindh.gov.pk/covid-19] on its website whereby public interested in donations to CEF are properly guided, as well as get access to complete transaction details of the CEF. There’s no further directive from the government so far about the future, or during the second wave of the pandemic.”
When contacted, Chief Minister’s Law Adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that the situation was handled by provincial authorities with effective utilisation of the funds under competent committee members.
“As we are facing the second wave of the pandemic, we hope the government would discuss its plan about the CEF. Once Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah [who is in self isolation after being tested positive for Covid-19] recovers and actively takes charge of affairs, we hope this matter would also be taken up,” he said.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020