Ombudsperson: Ventilators Not Smuggled But Widespread Corruption In COVID-19 Budget

The Ombudsperson Office said that no ventilators have been smuggled out of Afghanistan, but investigations showed widespread corruption in the use of the Coronavirus budget.

Lead Ombudsperson Ghizaal Haress, told a news conference on Wednesday, that the final reports of her agency showed that all ventilators that have been sent to Afghanistan or donated to the country by international organisations and partners, are accounted for and have not been smuggled.

She said that Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) had reported a total of 335 ventilators, but during the investigation of her department, they found 372 ventilators in the country.

Their study showed that there was limited use of the ventilators in specialized COVID-19 facilities, especially in Kabul, Herat and Nangarhar provinces.

While some hospitals lacked technicians who did not know how to operate the machines, a few did not have biomedical engineers who could repair faulty devices. Due to the lack of technical know-how, some health workers told the MoPH that they had received “broken” devices.

As an example, Haress noted that the Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital in Kabul had only used the ventilator for 40 patients from the beginning of the pandemic in March to July 7.

Corruption in COVID-19 budget spendings

Haress said that the Ombudsperson Office found that the resources allocated to fight COVID-19 have been embezzled, which has had a negative effect on the health facilities available to the patients.

They inspected four provinces, Herat, Nuristan, Wardak and Badakhshan and found “big differences in the price of equipment purchased by local authorities, and in some cases, unrelated purchases.”

In Herat, the price paid for six medical supplies and equipment was more than 19 million AFN compared to the estimated market price. A CT Scan machine that had been purchased for 30,800,000 AFN had a market price of 11,500,000 AFN.

She added that the inspection of 12 items and medical equipment in Nuristan also showed a mark-up of 4 million AFN.

Similarly in Wardak, 11 items that had been purchased for

Haress stated that their findings showed routine mark-ups across all four provinces, which meant embezzlement of resources and taxes.

These remarks come while the Ombudsperson’s Office accused Wardak Governor Abdul Yamin Muzaffaruddin, Badakhshan Governor Mohammad Zakaria Sawda, former Nuristan governor Hafiz Abdul Qayum and former Herat governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi, of “mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.”

They also referred former health minister Ferozuddin Feroz, along with three former and a current deputy, to the Attorney General’s Office on charges of corruption, abuse of power and embezzlement of funds.

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