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Monday July 04, 2022

Irregularities of Rs3.3bn detected in Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar

May 18, 2022

PESHAWAR: The Auditor General of Pakistan has revealed serious irregularities amounting to over Rs3.3 billion in the procurement, construction projects, and recruitment of 630 employees at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the largest teaching hospital in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The auditors have found irregularities amounting to Rs1.43 billion in the procurement and installation of different items while Rs1.39 billion anomalies were detected in construction projects. The illegal appointments have cost the national exchequer Rs478.5 million.

Lady Reading Hospital’s spokesperson Muhammad Asim told this correspondent that the audit report has identified irregularities but these irregularities are not yet proven. The audit report will be presented to the Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) for further clarification, where all objections will be answered and removed.

Provincial health department has received the audit report for the financial year 2020-21 from the Auditor General of Pakistan, a copy of which is available with this correspondent, that says a company was paid Rs61.7 million but the company did not install endoscopic ultrasound and video endoscopy in the hospital.

The audit report revealed that only one arthroscopic machine for the hospital was bought at a high price of Rs21.45 million. Similarly, the Hayatabad Medical Institute bought the arthroscopic machine for Rs 12.5 million while the Lady Reading Hospital purchased it for Rs33.95 million resulting in a loss of Rs21.40 million to the national exchequer. The machine was imported from the United Arab Emirates instead of Germany. Another unauthorised payment of Rs2.5 million was made to the advertising company for advertising in foreign media. A firm was awarded the contract for the highest bidder instead of the lowest bidder for the supply of gloves, which resulted in the loss of Rs28.52 million to the national exchequer. Medicines and medical equipment worth Rs37 million were procured from a local pharmacy for the hospital while other pharmacies were given low marks during this process. The whole process of medicine purchase was found dubious. Similarly, an unauthorised payment of Rs16.50 million was made to a Peshawar-based pharmacy. The huge amount of Rs20 million spent on repeated purchases of IT equipment has made the whole process dubious. During COVID-19, an additional amount of Rs4.4 million was paid to doctors without any prior approval. The management of Lady Reading Hospital did not provide meeting minutes of the Board of Governors after the implementation of MTI.

A completely modified selection criterion was adopted by the administration against the approved recruitment policy, due to which transparent and fair recruitment could not be carried out. A full-fledged human resources department was established, having tens of the number of various personnel. However, the department failed to perform the basic duties, even though sufficient resources were allocated to the department. The hospital administration adopted an entirely different criterion for the appointment of a nursing director by giving 70 marks to interviews, even the failed candidates were also appointed to the post of charge nurse.

According to the audit report, an amount of Rs141,708,000 was paid to 240 charge nurses at a rate of Rs49,000 per month on account of their salaries. However, scrutiny of the recruitment record revealed that the appointments were made in contravention of the recruitment policy. The advertisement made for the appointment of the charge nurses was vague. A total of 830 candidates applied for the post of charge nurse; however, only 329 candidates were declared eligible, with the rest of the candidates declared ineligible. Only 329 candidates have participated in the written test, out of which only 277 candidates were declared as qualified, with the rest of the candidates shown to have obtained “0” marks, which seems doubtful as well. Out of the 277 written test qualified candidates, there were 77 candidates who could not obtain 33% minimum passing marks. The selection criteria aforementioned were completely violated by ignoring and not awarding marks in the components of experience, higher qualifications, reputable healthcare experience marks, and relevant training certification marks, as was required under the recruitment policy aforementioned. A completely modified selection criterion was adopted by the hospital administration against the approved recruitment policy, due to which transparent and fair recruitment for the posts could not be carried out. It was observed that an amount of Rs10,602,576 was paid to 18 pharmacists at a rate of Rs49,086 per month on account of their salaries. However, scrutiny of the recruitment record revealed that the selection criteria were completely violated by ignoring and not awarding marks under the component “experience”. It was noted that a total of 316 various types of staff were appointed by the hospital administration and an amount of almost Rs284,400,000 was paid on account of their salaries. However, there was no sanctioned strength available on record or provided to the field audit team. Furthermore, there were instances of overcrowding in the hospital with unnecessary staff. It was detected that Catherine Bordon Monana was appointed as a nursing director and an amount of Rs6,960,000 was paid at a rate of Rs580,000 per month on account of her salary in violation of the MTI Act 2015.

Further scrutiny of the recruitment record revealed that the hospital administration adopted an entirely different criterion for the appointment of nursing director, by allotting 15 marks to qualifications, 12.5 marks to administrative & teaching experience, and 70 marks to interviews, as against the BoG approved recruitment policy.

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