Pakistan lands in hot water as it may not get the assured 280-million-pound health aid from the UK, following the detection of 'misuse' of previous funds meant for procuring polio vaccines.
Britain had extended a 15-million-pound aid to Islamabad in February for buying polio vaccines, after the latter begged for financial assistance citing shortage of funds to continue its polio-eradication campaign.
The UK responded to the emergency request and provided the aid with conditions that it should be used only for polio vaccine procurement and the entire amount should be spent by June 30. Pakistan's Planning Commission directed the health ministry to purchase the vaccine and asked the finance ministry to release the amount to the health ministry. But, after buying the vaccine, the health ministry approached the finance ministry, but it was told that the funds had been used for the 'balance of budget', reported the Dawn.
Shocked to learn that its assistance had been misused, the British Department for International Development wrote a letter to Finance Secretary Farrukh Qayyum, asking him to ensure that the amount was used for the intended purpose.
"The amount of 15 million pounds was transferred to the government of Pakistan in March 2008 on the understanding that these funds would be used in the FY 2007-08. The Ministry of Health has completed the vaccine procurement process and polio vaccine is now available for National Immunisation days. However, we are surprised that no funds have been released to the Ministry of Health for payment to the vaccine suppliers to date," said the letter.
It added: "We are concerned that this delay in payment could impact negatively on future vaccine procurement, and that postponement of payment until July could reduce the funds available for vaccine purchase in the next financial year."
Sources claimed that British Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander would raise this issue with Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani, during a meeting with him here on Thursday.
Pakistan needs 100 million doses a year to vaccinate 35 million children. This year, because of resource constraints, the government bought only 20 million doses and the health ministry had to turn to donors for the remaining 80 million doses.