Monday October 25, 2021

Corona funds: Top auditors find over Rs15 bn irregularities by Punjab govt

September 03, 2021

ISLAMABAD: A special audit team of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has pointed out irregularities of more than Rs15 billion in corona funds released to the Government of Punjab during the audit year 2019-20.

The audit team exposed financial mismanagement in corona funds and the Punjab government sustained heavy losses due to procurement of the same medical stocks at different rates. “Wastage of public money was noticed due to incomplete and improper record-keeping as record of overstocks procured, received from PDMA and via donations was not separately maintained,” read the special audit report on the accounts of Covid-19-related expenditure for the last financial year.

The auditors have highlighted fake billings, misappropriation or overpayment of public funds, negligence, purchase of medicine at high prices, numerous violations of rules and regulations and weaknesses of internal control in the government spending.

The special audit team found unauthenticated and doubtful procurement worth Rs392 million for the corona patients which included provision of meals amounting to Rs10 million, hiring of catering and lights of Rs139 million.

The doubtful and unauthenticated expenditures also include purchase of medicines, establishment of hospital and PPEs of Rs224 million and irregular expenditures made on the construction of helipad for chief minister’s helicopter, according to the auditors. The auditors also found fake bills worth Rs20 million in the accounts of district health officer Bhakkar, DHQ Hospital Layyah and DDOs of municipal committee, revealed the report. The chief officer of MCM paid Rs82 million on account of rental charges for hiring of beam lights, pedestal fans, etc. for a quarantine centre in Multan without showing any evidence, according to the auditors.

The auditors highlighted that the health authorities made procurement of Rs1.5 billion without demand/need/rate analysis, thus the audit team noted an unnecessary procurement in excess quantities was made as closing stocks worth only Rs295 million were available in the stores.

The auditors recorded losses of Rs1.7 million in the accounts of DHQ Mianwali and Isakhail hospitals on purchasing medicines at high prices. The audit team pointed out irregularities in the accounts of PDMA Lahore, which paid an extra Rs10 million to a private company transporting pilgrims from Taftan border to different areas of Punjab. The deputy commissioner, Gujranwala, according to the report, hired private vehicles on exorbitant rent, due to which the national exchequer met a loss of Rs10 million.

The AGP team also pointed out procurement of Rs239 million made at higher rates where the auditors feared that millions of rupees were lost in different districts of Punjab. The auditors also noted irregular and unauthorised procurement of various items of Rs504 million, which were never approved by the cabinet committee for prevention of corona, revealed the report. For example, the deputy commissioner Chakwal made procurement of uniform for Rs1.64 million for the PM Tiger Force without approval from the government.

Procurements of Rs619 million were made by the health authorities from the selected vendors in violation of the Punjab Procurement Rules and Punjab Financial Rules. The report shows that the government of Punjab released Rs25.2 billion for the corona funds.

Different quotations were obtained from the same suppliers with different names but these suppliers have had the same mobile numbers, the auditors say. Even DHQ Teaching Hospital Sargodha made procurement of over Rs3 million from a blacklisted company, revealed the report. Substandard procurement of Rs90 million was made without checking quality assurance certificates, DTL shelf life of testing of kits, medicine and PPEs, according to the report.

Doubtful stock consumption of Rs413 million were also pointed out by the auditors in different districts where the audit team found that some stocks worth millions of rupees were released without any demands, distribution plan and without any need-based assessment.

The auditors also noted that stocks worth Rs78 million were found missing from different hospitals. The AGP team also noticed a non-maintenance of expenditures of record of Rs458 million, excess payments of Rs15 million, non-maintained donation of Rs10 million and Rs66 million paid to different medical officers and staff whose appointments were made without observance of codal formalities.

The auditors also found that bogus payments of Rs7 million were made to different daily wagers who were employed without any consultation with the administration departments. The auditors said the officials did not provide a record of expenditures of Rs389 million where the audit-able records pertaining to transactions were not presented.

Inefficient utilisation of funds worth Rs3.3 billion was not surrendered in a timely manner and the amount got lapsed, revealed the audit report, adding there were un-reconciled expenditures of Rs1.3 billion in the Corona Relief Funds in Punjab.

The PDMA transferred this amount to various departments across the province but reconciliation of the amount was not made. Misclassification of expenditure of Rs3.8 billion was incurred from the irrelevant heads of accounts, stated the report, adding that the finance department, without having input from the concerned department, directly allocated funds to the districts’ administrators of the province.

The auditors also noted unapproved and unadjusted advances and unverified CDRs of Rs92 million where they observed that an excess expenditure of the above-allocated budget of Rs370 million was registered.

High treatment cost per patient of Rs682.7 million as per the government budget book 2020-21, average patient cost in P&S healthcare department during 2019-2020 was Rs28,213 only, while in S&ME department average per patient cost was reported as Rs127,442, read the report. Data analysis of per patient cost DDMAs also revealed a huge difference as per patient cost incurred in DDMA DG Khan was Rs25,308 only as compared to the cost of Rs315,502 incurred by DDMA Bahawalpur.

Incomplete and unreliable reporting of expenditures of Rs82.4 million and involvement of multiple agencies without mutual coordination with expenditures of Rs13.7 million was also noted by the audit team.

No observance of the health department guidelines and SOPs of Rs430 million were also noted by the auditors. 14 of total 18 quarantine centres remained non-functional in Sialkot and the DC Lahore established eight quarantine centres with Rs130 million and also created a pending liability of Rs300 million.

The audit report also revealed that the provincial authorities made hasty and unjustified procurement of Rs5.2 billion without need-based assessment where these funds were released to hospitals without a phased approach plan. The report also noted an unauthorised retention of public money of Rs6.8 billion in the commercial bank accounts.