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Tuesday, July 2, 2024

NAB investigation on NICVD’s financial affairs takes a new turn

A set of 'eight questions' that include details about their salaries, professional and academic certificates, and recruitment have been given to NICVD officials. The COO has also been asked by NAB to provide professional as well as academic experience records.

On Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) issued call up notices to five National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) officers and requested records of 26 other NICVD officers, including the head of HR and chief operating officer (COO), Azra Maqsood, reported ARY news. This was done in view of the corruption charges initiated by NAB on NICVD almost two years ago.

A set of ‘eight questions’ that include details about their salaries, professional and academic certificates, and recruitment have been given to NICVD officials. The COO has been asked by NAB to provide professional as well as academic experience records. NICVD’s senior officers, Dawar Hussain and Haider Awan have also been asked to answers those questions. These ‘eight questions’ would help the investigators on the case to thoroughly look into the alleged embezzlement of funds in NICVD.

Moreover, it has been reported that NICVD officers are paid millions in salaries, including the senior officer, Haider Awan, who is paid around 1.8 million as salary, sources told ARY. Awan has also been accused of being a ghost employee for NICVD, added sources.

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The officers were asked to submit their records till 16 November to NAB Karachi. However, no latest update on the submission or inquiry has come to surface as of now.

Recent raid on NICVD 

Last month, a team of NAB conducted a raid on NICVD in the afternoon and stayed for about five to six hours in the health facility, and visited different administrative units. A senior management personnel, along with other officials, were questioned by NAB. During the raid, several financial and relevant records were seized. “They checked different records regarding financial matters and human resource section of the NICVD. They put different questions before the NICVD officials and noted down their replies.”, a source told Dawn.

The COO of NICVD, Azra Maqsood said that the medical services had to be put on hold for the five hours NAB was in the building, causing anxiety and uncertainty to many patients present there. She further stated that NICVD has always cooperated with NAB, however, this raid was unwarranted. “Ironically, all the information has already been provided to them as inquiries by NAB are underway for the last two years and they have been furnished with each and every document they asked for,” she added.

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NICVD later issued a statement in which the raid was described as ‘unjustified’. The statement read, “The NAB’s raid on the institute which provides free treatment is unjustified. The NAB has not shared any prior information with the NICVD for any record. The NAB has always been offered cooperation whenever it sought any details. The NAB raid has caused serious stress among doctors and other staff members of the NICVD. The patients also feel uncomfortable.”

NICVD, in a statement claimed that the raid by NAB was conducted on a request of a ghost employee of the hospital, named Tariq Sheikh, who was terminated from the job in September of this year. It claimed Sheikh had threatened to ‘exercise his influence’ on the facility, and this was done for personal gains. The statement read, “We call for stern action against Sheikh, who has been blackmailing the institution (NICVD) for personal gains over the past four years, and not to destroy the institution on behest of such elements”.

NAB has claimed that NICVD has failed to provide a record of Rs 5.15 trillion provided to it by the provincial health department. The anti-graft watchdog issued a statement on 3rd November and called out NICVD and the Sindh health department for “not providing relevant information and record to the NAB, Karachi, in spite of various requests.”

PTI’s allegations on NICVD

PPP came out in support for NICVD, while PTI is doubtful of the health facility’s financial affairs. In a press conference, Haleem Adil Sheikh, while putting serious allegations on NICVD, said “A retired person was appointed as head of the NICVD on political grounds, who was receiving Rs6.5 million salary per month but did not bother to attend the office regularly”.

“The NICVD is under debt of Rs16 billion at the moment. An amount of Rs40,000 from each angioplasty procedure which was performed at the NICVD [is] deposited into a special pool, which was onward distributed to the accounts of ED NICVD and other officials. This is taxpayers’ money but the way they use it, is illegal and injustice. The NICVD Welfare Trust has been established, which is illegal because no government hospital or entity could form trust with its own name. The NICVD Trust is established but there is no accountability of the trust.”

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Backlash from PPP

PPP called the raid the centre’s tactic to ‘hijack the best public sector hospital’ from the Sindh government. Senator Sherry Rehman condemned the raid in a statement which said, “It is shocking that a hospital has been raided by NAB. Hospitals are not even attacked during wars. Has the government lost all sense? What is the purpose of this NAB raid when the administration has been providing all the information?”.

Background of the case 

An inquiry over NICVD’s corruption and embezzlement of funds was started by NAB almost two years ago. A letter by NAB read that NICVD’s executive director was in “possession of information/evidence whatsoever, which relates to the commission of the offence(s)”. During the initial stages of the inquiry, NAB requested records of NICVD’s structural formation, among other things in a letter sent to the executive director. In the letter, “The NAB had also sought details of appointments in different cadres during the last 10 years, pay structure of different grades, annual budget details and expenditure during the last 10 years, details of procurement, including drugs, machinery, etc, internal, external and third-party audit reports of last 10 years,” a source told Dawn.

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GVS news desk