22-28 July 2016 #818

Kickbacks from the poor

Bhagwati Timilsina in Nepal Samacharpatra, 15 July

Even as a no-confidence motion was being registered against the government led by Prime Minister KP Oli, his Health Minister Ram Janam Chaudhari (pictured, above) and State Minister of Health and Population (MoHP) Mohammad Mustak Alam (pictured, below) have been trying to extort kickbacks from hospitals serving the rural poor.

Some 23 community hospitals are supposed to get government grants of up to Rs 500 million each after presenting proposals to the Planning Division of the MoHP. However, sources say Health Minister Chaudhari and State Minister Alam are demanding up to 50 per cent in personal kickbacks, in return for approving the grants.

One community hospital representative said: “How can we keep up the quality of health in our district if the ministers take nearly half the money away?”

The representatives of other hospitals, who reached the ministry on Wednesday to sign their agreements, requested Acting Secretary Padam Bahadur Chand and State Minister Alam to make the procedure clean and short.

Before the formulation of the directive to provide such grants to community hospitals, the ministry used to arbitrarily distribute grants to political cronies. However, the 23 hospitals outside Kathmandu were meant to receive their budgetary support after the provision was clearly stipulated in the Community Hospital Grants Directive 2016.

A high-level ministry official stated that Rs 10 million has already been released to Tikapur Hospital in Kailali — the hometown of Health Minister Chaudhari — but other hospitals are facing delays. Some of the hospitals that have received their grants are said to be close to the chief of the Planning Division, former secretary at the ministry Shanta Bahadur Shrestha and incumbent ministers.

Hospital representatives have been given the runaround for an entire week, and their expenses are rising while they go to the Ministry every day to obtain the grants they are entitled to. Officials tell them the money has not been transferred, or to wait fruitlessly until 4 pm each day. The ministers could not be reached for comments.

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