THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Health Systems Resource Centre (SHSRC), set up to undertake research activities, has come under the scanner for not completing any of the research projects in the past two years, thereby squandering public money.Despite deploying sufficient research officers and senior research staff, around Rs 55 lakh sanctioned for various projects remains unutilised. Six research projects were taken up in 2015-16 and four in 2016-17. These projects were sanctioned as part of the programme implementation plan (PIP) under the National Health Mission budget. These project proposals were submitted by the State NHM and sanction was accorded as part of the PIP for 2015-16 and 2016-17.
In a reply to an RTI, the SHSRC said the research studies were still incomplete. In the four studies taken up in 2016-17, it said data collection was not yet over and that only ‘tool developed training for research officers have been completed’.For six projects undertaken in 2015-16, the SHSRC said no expenditure has been incurred so far, meaning no work was completed.
In 2015-16, an amount of Rs 33.50 lakh was approved for six projects. However, the funds lie idle. An amount of Rs 20 lakh was approved for 2016-17, but not even a single study has been completed even six months into the current fiscal. Besides, the first installment of funds for 2016-17 was disbursed even when the project was in its early stages. SHSRC executive director K S Shinu admitted there was a delay in taking up research programmes till 2016. However, he claimed the activities of the centre have been streamlined and seven studies were now in various stages.
Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said he was not aware of the projects and the work taken up before he assumed office. Agreeing some projects were pending, he said, “The facilities and the research personnel at SHSRC are now being fully utilised. The lag might have been caused as many were involved in major initiatives of the government.’’Noting the centre’s work has now increased, he said they are very much involved in the Aardram project, Sustainable Development Goals and the Clinical Establishment Bill. He also said the government was mulling rendering service of outsiders in research activities in future.
The curious thing is the terms of reference of these research staff states their main objective is to “conduct research and evaluate studies in a timely manner and provide evidence for the formulation of norms, guidelines and future policies”. Express had earlier exposed these appointments were made without following proper norms or stipulated rules of working arrangement or deputation.