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Public Monies & Disclosure

Govts being custodian of the public monies are entrusted and expected to spend the monies in an efficient and transparent manner ensuring level playing field for all the market players who intend to engage in business with Govt entities. Govt shall proactively disclose the information about its engagement in matters involving spending of public money. Public procurement rules aim to ensure that govt engages contractors in a level playing manner. Right to information laws have been enacted to grant access to such information even if the public officers are reluctant to proactive public disclosures.

Recently there was a report that KP Govt purchased medicine at prices more than 50% lower than that of the Punjab Govt. The conclusion was drawn by Punjab Pharmacists Association after a comparison of purchase prices of Punjab & KP. I tried to find the approved rates of the medicines purchased (or selected to purchase) in bulk by Punjab & KP Govts from respective health department websites to have a more closer look in the difference. I could find only technical evaluation of the selected medicine by the Punjab govt whereas KP Health Department has uploaded the final price list for each product & the provider.

Based on the information available on KP website, any person can select a particular medicine type, note the price paid by govt and can check the selling price at his nearest pharmacy shop to compare if Govt is paying more for the same medicine or less. Providing easy access to the correct information in matters involving public money  and having ability to independently verify the market value attracts more accountability and scrutiny to the govt spending. I strongly suggest readers to have a self-test and check the prices against the given rates of govt in market. Active engagement of citizens to audit & verify govt data will keep the govt to continue and focus the provision of correct info. In similar manner Punjab’s School data is made public and that portal developed by PITB invites public to contest their data. Such an exercise increases the credibility of the govt data and public trust in state institutions.

Another program by KP Health Department involving massive amounts of public money was initiated as “Sehat Insaf Card” under “Sehat sahulat program” with aim to provide free health service to low income households. This program is now covering all districts of KP and nearly 51% of the KP population will be able to have free treatment in any registered hospital through KP. Some districts have received cards while distribution is in progress in other districts and is expected to complete by end march.

Govt has released massive amount of information on http://www.sehatsahulat.com.pk/ about this program. Given the nature and quantity of information, there is great opportunity for public health and data scientists to carry out their research. Data is available for each registered household with the union council address and is searchable by district. I suggest this search ability be further brought down to the level of Tehsil and Union council for a quick search verification of a beneficiary. Card Nos and Contact numbers with village names are also provided for each beneficiary of the scheme. While there might be an abuse of such data yet there is an opportunity to verify if card have been distributed to real and well deserved people or just to dead people and on political preferences. In Pakistan we often have observed dead people come for votes and people get salaries form govt while working abroad. So here is an opportunity for people to verify if govt is providing correct data or fabricated data.

There are summary reports available for total visits and admissions for each district by gender type and case related like surgical, delivery, C-Section etc. This website provides reports for each health facility under this program where you can find the number of patients for any given period of time by four different age groups, gender, disease type, length of stay in hospital, bed occupancy in the facility, types of procedure performed on them, cost of a procedure and total income of a health facility under this program.

The insurance provider, on same website, provides reports for each district giving the coverage of patients by gender type, age group, admissions by treatment and facility type (Govt vs Pvt) and finally the treatment costs claimed by public facilities and private facilities.  Such a comparative report, publically available, will be an important tool in public to put a pressure on public health facilities to improve their quality and service against private facilities within same districts. It is important that how health department will be using these reports as a matter of accountability for its district health staff esp when there will be a clear comparison of govt & pvt facilities available.

As these 2 projects involve a big chunk of public money, it is appreciated that the department has made all these information public proactively and has attracted more scrutiny. Likewise, govt can earn more public trust if its other departments also proactively disclose more and more info and ensure that correct and update info are released to public.

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Yasir Cheema

Yasir Cheema is a Civil Engineer by training and currently working as Resident Engineer for Surbana Jurong Pte. Ltd. in Singapore. He writes at this portal about Governance, Public policy, Institutional development, Construction practices, and procedures.

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