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April 3, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic: Zilch utilisation out of Rs11 bn allocated for capital health facilities

Top Story

April 3, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Not a penny has been utilised out of Rs11 billion earmarked for improvement of health facilities in the federal capital in the current budget.

With the financial year to end in June, the earmarked funds are destined to lapse for the second year in succession. A review of development allocations for Islamabad done by the Planning Commission recently portrayed a poor picture of performance of the Health Ministry and capital’s health sector managers.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who is elected to the National Assembly from Islamabad, did not respond to the calls and messages sent to them by The News.

A similar question was sent to both: I am bothering you to seek your version on following question: Out of Rs11 billion allocated for PIMS, Poly Clinic, and health facilities of rural areas of Islamabad, not a penny has been utilised by Ministry of Health. Your views please? It was repeated for two days but in vain. The documents of the Planning Commission pertaining to the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) review of health sector allocation for year 2019-2020, available with The News, reveal a tale of inefficiency, neglect and poor governance. The Planning Commission documents disclose that out of Rs6 billion reserved for equipment and upgradation of PIMS (Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences), not a single rupee has been spent. All the development schemes are approved, and many of them are sanctioned since 2018.

Similarly, there is zero utilisation out of Rs813 million earmarked for equipment and improvement of facilities at Federal Government Services Hospital commonly known as Poly Clinic. An amount of Rs2.8 billion has been allotted for establishment of new hospital and improvement of existing health facilities in the rural area of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) but again not a penny has been made use of by the planners and health sector managers.

The National Assembly allocated Rs222 million for provision of electro-medical equipment at the National Institute of Rehabilitation Management, which is the only facility in Islamabad for disabled citizens. No funds have been consumed till date for the specified purpose.

More than Rs1 billion was assigned to technical capacity building of the health ministry (Rs314 million), prevention of infectious diseases (Rs361 million) and strengthening of the Central Health Establishment or CHE (Rs451 million). The CHE is responsible for surveillance and screening of infectious diseases at air, land and sea entry points of Pakistan. Here too, the utilisation is zero, documents show.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was elected to the National Assembly from Islamabad. The premier is also the federal health minister. Still no project has seen the light of the day over the last two years. The hospitals like PIMS and Poly Clinic primarily provide free health services to government officials and functionaries. The non-utilisation of the assigned funds makes it clear that even the bureaucrats are not interested in their own welfare.

An official said that the responsibility for non-utilisation of the allotted funds lies with the NAB because no bureaucrat is going to risk his career and reputation by signing projects and files. All these projects involve procurement from public funds. Non-use of the earmarked funds even in the tenth month of the financial year is failure of health and planning ministries.