KARACHI: A National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team on Thursday conducted an hours-long ‘raid’ at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (NICVD) to investigate charges of financial and administrative irregulates, reported The News.
The authority hasn’t released an official statement on the matter but a NAB source told The News that a five-member team led by Deputy Director Qamar Abbasi “visited the health facility” when NICVD failed to provide “some documents” within the due date. The inquiry had been launched over two years ago and NAB says that it found the executive director of NICVD was in possession of evidence related to the alleged commission of offence(s) during the last 10 years.
The raid drew a strong reaction from the employees of the cardiac-care facility who held a protest against what they called ‘harassment’ by the anti-graft agency. Azra Maqsood, Chief Operating Officer of the NICVD, said the NAB investigators remained at NICVD for over six hours and due to the harassment and uncertainty, medical services, except emergency, remained suspended for several hours, causing suffering to hundreds of patients.
The NICVD officials said the NAB team comprising five officials entered the hospital at around 2:00 pm and remained there for six hours, questioned staff and officials from different departments and inquired about financial affairs and transactions, number of employees and their nature of jobs, recruitment policies, purchase of medicines, equipment and machinery as well as other items required to run the health facility.
“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,” the COO added.
A spokesman for the NICVD said NAB was conducting an inquiry for the last two to three years and could not prove any irregularity. “But such raids not only tarnish the image of a premier health institution but also terrorize the staff,” he added.
Reacting to the NAB’s raid, a large number of employees gathered at the NICVD’s main building and held a demonstration against the investigating agency, saying administration and staff of the country’s best cardiac-care facility were being defamed on the behest of some unscrupulous elements.
“A ghost employee, Dr. Tariq Shaikh was recently terminated by the NICVD administration and it is said that he has connections in the NAB. At the behest of Shaikh, the NAB officials raided the NICVD today and terrorized the staff and patients at the hospital,” one of the protesting employees, who identified himself as Ahmed Ali, alleged.
The NAB more than two years ago initiated an inquiry against the NICVD over corruption charges. It had transpired during the inquiry that the executive director of NICVD was in “possession of information/evidence whatsoever, which relates to the commission of the offence(s)”, the NAB letter reads. While initiating the inquiry in September 2018, it had sought complete record in original and certified copies of structural formation of NICVD, year-wise sanctioned strength and appointments made in different cadres including regular, contractual, contingency, and daily wages based posts during the last 10 years.
“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,” said the source giving details of the letter sent by NAB to the executive director of NICVD.
PPP Parliamentary Party leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman strongly reacted to the raid and called it a move from the Centre to “hijack” the “best public sector hospital” from the Sindh government. “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?” she added. She said that “Nabgardi” was endangering peoples’ lives as the OPD and emergency sections were closed. Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani also condemned the raid and said the NAB-Niazi alliance was now endangering the lives of patients in the country.