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April 3, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic: Zero utilisation out of Rs11b 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 COVID-19 emergency and huge pressure it has brought upon the health facilities of the capital makes the present state of affairs of non-utilisation of development funds appalling.

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.

Service delivery departments normally complain of lack of resources, but colossal funds were allocated in annual development plan of the financial years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, but planning and health sector experts have not used a nickel.

A study of these phenomenal allocations throws up mindboggling facts. An amount of Rs6 billion allotted to the PIMS is meant

for twelve projects, which are designed to bring improvements in all aspects of service delivery in the largest medical facility of the capital.

Their break-up makes an instructive reading - Rs56 million for hospital waste management, Rs30 million for new mortuary, Rs197 million for latest endoscopy equipment, Rs59 million for ENT equipment, Rs59 million for ophthalmology (eye) equipment, Rs50 million for nephrology-kidney, Rs316 million for MRI machines, Rs725 million for installation of latest HVAC system, Rs3.8 billion for intensive care unit (ICU) in Children

Hospital with JICA having agreed to support this upgradtion, and Rs59 million for PIMS ICU, which includes provision of much needed ventilators.

For improvements in wards and other facilities, a blanket allocation of Rs200 million was provided and Rs385 million earmarked for provision of up to date equipment for gastroenterology and liver diseases. The Planning Commission review revealed that utilisation of funds on all these projects was zero.

The Poly Clinic has been provided Rs710 million for CT Scan, MRI and mammography

equipment; Rs35 million for ENT, and another Rs59 million for upgrading of the ICU. Here too the use is zero.

More than half of capital’s population lives in rural areas. A sum of Rs2.8 billion was allocated in the budget for establishment of a large hospital in Tarlai and upgradation of rural health centers and basic health units. An amount of Rs2 billion for Tarlai hospital is a donation from Saudi Arabia. Here too, nothing has been consumed.

The Senate health committee, chaired by Senator Khushbakht Shujat, recently reviewed the development expenditure of the Health Ministry and expressed displeasure over the situation.

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 National Accountability Bureau (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.