KABUL (MoPH) in collusion with the public health director of western Badghis province had tried to embezzle millions of afghanis by using fake documents and contracts.
The contracts were about purchasing medical and office equipment, exceeding mid-year budget by 140 million afghanis and 13 health construction projects in 1399 year in Badghis province, which totals 800 million afghanis.
The documents show the MoPH has directed the Audit Department and Legal Advisory Board of the ministry to investigate the projects and supplies which had been requested based on fake documents.
The corruption case in Badghis did not remain secret as many organs and people in the province are now aware of it. The provincial public health director, who attempted to embezzle first part of the budget for projects, was arrested after people reported the issue to officials but he was released soon.
A document obtained by Pajhwok Afghan News shows that acting public health minister, Ahmad Jawad Osmani, on July 8 ordered the Audit Department and Advisory Board of the ministry to investigate the case.
According to it, the MoPH states that there were accountability and transparency issues in three areas including 13 construction projects, procurement of medical and office equipment and exceeding budged of mid-year for current 1399 solar year for Badghis province.
Findings by probing team
The team appointed for investigating the case has found that 24 days ahead of the ministry’s order for probe, around 100 million afghanis signed by acting minister Jawad Osmani had been transferred to Badghis Revenue Department for purchasing medical equipment.
After the passage of more than two months, Osmani is yet to take any practical steps on the matter.
Govt organs’ and local people’s views
Sources in Badghis province say that the amount attempted to be embezzled was 800 million afghanis. They say public health projects were completed illegally, without any bidding process and in collusion with MoPH officials based on secret deals.
There are also some statements that say the mentioned projects have been processed in cooperation with former deputy public health minister, Fida Mohammad Paikan and former Badghis governor, Abdul Ghafor Malakzai.
An official, who wished to go unnamed, said that Paikan was also involved in the embezzlement of the money. He said Paikan during the last Covid19 quarantine had asked Badghis public health director, Abdul Latif Rostayee, to request some projects for his province.
The source said Rostayee requested supplies worth 800 million afghanis and Paikan awarded the contract of the projects to a company which belongs to one of Paikan’s relatives.
Badghis provincial council’s statements
Abdul Aziz Baig, provincial council head of Badghis, about the embezzlement of 800 million afghanis, said that the money was allocated for purchasing medical and office equipment for healthcare centers and other relevant places.
Badghis public health director in collusion with MoPH officials approved the documents of these supplies secretly without coordinating them with the governor’s house and other officials of the ministry, he said, without naming anyone.
“The governor’s house of Badghis and the public health department of the province, somehow colluded and passed procurement documents and then sent them to MoPH where they had a friend and passed documents from MoPH and Ministry of Finance in collaboration,” Baig said.
He said of the 800 million afghanis, 100 million afs were approved and transferred to Badghis and the provincial public health director was arrested when he was taking the money.
“The public health director’s arrest proves that all the documents were illegally passed and except the public health department and the governor’s house, no other relevant organs were contacted, because all the things were done secretly,” he added.
He criticized the release of the public health director and said that Rustayee was freed just 10 days after his detention and currently he continued his job as normal.
Baig also criticized government’s negligence in not following the case and not chasing others involved in the collusion and said, “It is a matter of great regret that an ordinary worker is imprisoned just for 5,000 afghanis for years, but directors and senior officials who embezzled 800 million afghanis are not chased.”
Civil society activists’ criticism
Mohammad Sabir Ahmadzai, a civil society activist in Badghis, said that despite civil society’s emphasize on prevention of corruption in the health sector of the province the budget of the sector was still embezzled.
He said the provincial public health director was arrested following huge efforts of people, but he was released and appointed again to his job due to corruption, bribery and injustice in the government organs.
“This issue is very worrisome because the case has been proven and those involved in corruption continue their jobs, this issue will damage public’s trust in government institutes,” Ahmadzai added.
A number of other people in the province also criticized corruption in the government and impunity of those involved.
Former Badghis governor rejects allegations against him
Abdul Ghafor Malakzai, who currently serves as Nuristan governor, rejected allegations that he was involved in the case when he was governor of Badghis province and said that he only gave directions for legal procedures in documents he received.
He said he released the decree based on recommendation of the provincial public health department. “I gave legal decrees and that was the reason they failed to extract money, if in case the governor’s house was involved in the issue, then why they would follow legal rules,” he said.
Malakzai said he did not permit extraction of money based on his decree and that also proved his non-involvement in the case. He said he was accountable for what he has ordered and passed.
Badghis public health director’s views
Abdul Latif Rustayee, director of Badghis public health, rejected embezzlement of millions of afghanis in his department.
He confirmed his detention by security forces and said, “The suspension I am accused of is under investigation and facts will surface, then you and others will get aware.”
He said no speculations and opinions were accurate until facts were exposed. He rejected illegally passing projects and said relevant organs would not provide budget until all documents were passed legally.
Rustayee did not respond to questions regarding requested projects, the total worth of the projects and contracted companies.
Views of former deputy public health minister:
Fida Mohammad Paikan, former deputy public health minister, rejected his involvement in corruption and said, “I probably was one of the persons who fought hardly against corruption and when I was changed, I proudly announced that I had never told any director, manager, project officials and others to award certain projects to certain companies.”
The Ministry of Public Health did not respond to Pajhwok’s repeated contacts for comment regarding the probing team and embezzlement in Badghis public health.
This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP.