THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Health Systems Resource Centre (SHSRC), which has been in focus for not completing any of the research projects for the last two years, has come under scrutiny for transferring the funds to the account of research officers on deputation without the consent of the governing body, the executive committee or the National Health Mission (NHM).The SHSRC in an RTI reply said the funds were transferred on March 31, 2017, the last day of the financial year. Highly placed sources said the funds were transferred only to show expenditure. If the expenditure was not shown, the NHM was unlikely to approve any of the other projects submitted by the centre.
SHSRC further admits, in the RTI reply, the transfer of money was shown in the NHM head of ‘B- 20’ of Financial Management Report (FMR) submitted to the NHM state mission.As per the normal procedure, such transfers happen only when a researcher outside the organisation applies for a research grant. In such cases, the research fund is transferred to the individual or organisation for completing the research based on an MoU. But when the research staff is recruited by SHSRC to engage and complete the research activities of the organisation, the need for such a transfer raises questions of transparency and accountability.
Health secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said he was not aware of the projects that were taken before he joined. But he said the funds might have been transferred to the accounts of the research officers to show the expenditure. However, SHSRC executive director K S Shinu said the fund transfer to the account of research officers is a usual procedure. On criticisms that funds are not generally transferred in research officers’ accounts as they are government servants on deputation, he said, “The fund is given for conducting studies and not for individuals.”
However, sources in the health department said the fund should have been kept under the account of the centre and not on individuals’ account. “The NHM has given the fund for SHSRC and not for individuals. Any expense could have been accounted in the name of the centre. Moreover, all the transfers were without any approval, which only adds to the gravity of mismanagement,” they said. The studies are also not completed or nearing completion according to a reply furnished by SHSRC which defeats the very purpose for which the transfer of fund was done.
Shinu also alleged the controversy has been created by those who wanted to get the funds directly.
‘’We cannot transfer the funds in their names as there will never be any accountability. In the case of officials on deputation, we have at least the provision to recover the fund if the studies are not done properly,’’ he said. However, he did not comment on the need for approval from the authorities concerned for the fund transfer.