FAIZABAD (Pajhwok): Pajhwok Afghan News findings show 17 million afghanis have been embezzled from 150 million afghanis Covid-19 response budget in northeastern Badakhshan province.
Pajhwok findings were drawn from evaluations about the issue by the AGO, Civil Society Joint Committee, Office of the Ombudsperson of Presidential Palace and local administration of Badakhshan. The findings show widespread corruption has taken place in the purchase of equipment for Covid-19 Hospital in the province.
According to findings of a commission of Badakhshan local administration and Office of the Ombudsperson of Presidential Palace, around 17 million afghanis had been embezzled in the purchase of equipment for the hospital.
Documents show there was two times and multiple times difference in the prices of equipment bought for Covid-19 Hospital as compared to their rates in the market.
There is also criticism of Badakhshan’s local administration for spending only 79 million Afghanis of the total allocated budget of 150 million Afghanis for Covid-19 response in the province due to negligence. The rest of the budget is returned to the state treasure.
Covid-19 response budget spending:
After the outbreak of coronavirus in Badakhshan province, the central government allocated 150 million afghanis for responding to the pandemic in the province. Local officials say that 79 million afghanis of the budget has been spent.
According to officials, the budget was spent on purchase of 10 ambulances, medical equipment and needed medicines for coronavirus patients.
The procurement and purchasing process of the equipment for Covid-19 Hospital in Badakhshan was criticized over corruption in the process.
After allegations of corruption, Badakhshan’s local administration tasked a commission to investigate the purchase of equipment for the hospital. Office of the Ombudsperson of Presidential Palace and a team from AGO also arrived in Badakhshan for probing the case.
Despite finding corruption in the matter by the Office of the Ombudsperson of Presidential Palace and the commission, the AGO declared the case closed.
Multi-fold difference in equipment price:
After allegations of corruption in purchase of equipment, the local administration of Badakhshan created a committee comprised of government organizations and civil society institutes for investigation of the issue.
Findings of the committee show that most of the equipment were purchased at higher prices and twice the rates of the market. The committee said that the huge difference in the price of the equipment showed involvement of corruption in the process.
According to documents provided by the committee, a Chinese bed was purchased for 48,000 Afghanis, each tablet of azithromycin for 20afs and each oxygen storage tank for 8,000afs to 9,000afs from Massoud Mohsin Trading Company, which imports medical equipment to Kabul.
These items are purchased on April 22, 2020.
All the purchasing documents are stamped with the company and signed by Badakhshan public health director, Dr. Noor Khawari.
Ajmal Darwish, a member of Observatory Team of Civil Society Union in Badakhshan, said that the retail price of one bed was 28,000afs and an azithromycin tablet price was 10afs in the market. “These products should be lower in wholesale price, not two or more times higher,” he said.
Low quality of the equipment and expired medicine are other findings of the team who accused Badakhshan provincial commission responding to coronavirus and the committee responsible for purchasing the equipment of negligence and corruption.
Storai Yazdanparast, deputy head of Badakhshan Civil Society Institutes’ Union, said that a single PPE kit which costs 300afs in the market was purchased for 850afs from the mentioned company for the hospital.
According to the joint committee of civil society institutes and the local administration of Badakhshan which investigated corruption in Covid-19 response budget, there is a huge difference in the market price of the equipment.
A list of the equipment prepared by the joint committee has compared the prices in June of 2020.
The document reads, “The difference in prices of 11 types of goods purchased by Badakhshan purchasing committee, which were priced with three companies, is 7,028,896afs considering the 76,000afs discount by the contracted company.” The committee says that the prices were compared with three companies in Kabul.
Office of the Ombudsperson of the Presidential Palace also found corruption in the spending of Covid-19 response budget and referred former Badakhshan governor, Mohammad ZakariaSawda and some other local officials to the AGO.
Office of the Ombudsperson said that over 20 million Afghanis had been spent on medical equipment and over 17 million Afghanis were unaccounted for or probably embezzled.
However, former Badakhshan governor Mohammad ZakariaSawda said that even a single Afghani was not embezzled in the budget and he was ready to be held accountable.
He said that AGO findings showed that there was not only no corruption in the purchase of the equipment, but money was also saved in the process.
The AGO in its review of the case in December 2020 claimed that their scrutiny from the revenue office of Badakhshan showed that the allocation of the mount was present and there was no any embezzlement made in the budget.
The AGO stopped follow up of the case for unknown reasons.
Based on the review, the primary court and AGO after investigating the budget spending in Badakhshan and price taking from Afghanistan Medicinal Association, the purchase of medical equipment for Covid-19 Hospital was 91,100afs lower.
The review states that lack of accuracy in the investigation by Office of the Ombudsperson of the Presidential Palace on the matter was the reason the case had been protected.
Badakhskhan local officials’ response:
Local Badakhshan officials rejected corruption allegations in the purchase of equipment for the hospital and said not only there was no corruption in the purchase, but the equipment was purchased at lower rates compared to other provinces.
JummaGulNiazi, head of financial and administrative office of Badakhshan governor’s house, said that the central government had allocated 150 million Afghanis for responding to coronavirus when the virus for the first time appeared in the province.
He said that 79 million Afghanis of the budget was spent and the rest returned to the central government due to what he described as differences over the budget spending and people’s doubts about corruption.
Niazi said that 79 million Afghanis was spent on purchase of equipment, payment of building rent and services for responding to coronavirus.
On the other hand, Dr. Noor Khawari, Badakhshan public health director, also rejected the allegations and said that opening of 20-bed hospital for responding to coronavirus, recruitment of medical teams, creation of coordination groups for responding to the virus, providing medical equipment, opening of a diagnostic center and creating a quarantine building for coronavirus patients were the main achievements of his department.
However, Kikaws Taksari, a member of Civil Society Institutes’ Association in Badakhshan said that negligence of local officials was the reason the budget was not fully spent.
He said that prolonged procurement process and negligence of local officials caused a huge portion of the budget to be returned to the government’s treasure despite problems caused by coronavirus.
But Badakhshan officials say that they transparently spent the budget and findings of relevant organs from the budget spending showed there was no any corruption on the regard.
However, civil society activists say it was questionable for them when a local committee and Office of the Ombudsperson found corruption in the budget spending but the case was closed.
They asked the government not to ignore the corruption case and conduct another investigation into the matter.