…It’s Witch hunting – MD
All is not well at the National Ear-Care Centre, Kaduna as the staff Union tackles the management team over alleged procurement racketeering within the organisation. As pressure mounts from the Union, the management seems to be in disarray, but the Medical Director, Dr. Aminu Bakari describes the allegations as ‘mischievous and witch hunting’ by disgruntle elements in the system. Banking on President Buhari administration’s zero tolerance for corruption, Staff union at the National Ear Care Centre, Kaduna is shouting from the roof top that sharp practices have taken centre stage in the organization with the latest being allegations of racketeering in the procurement of a Computer Technology, popularly known as CT Scan. Similarly, the Union has raised an alarm that the Medical Director and some of his preferred management staff have embarked on activities that encourage rots, decay and mismanagement in the system. At the centre of current concerns by the Union is the Toshiba Slide 32 CT Scan installed at the National Ear-care, Throat and Olfactory Hospital located in Kaduna allegedly bought with total disregard for due process as contained in the Procurement Act. According to the Union, aside from being far below the quality of equipment initially approved for purchase, the Toshiba 32 slide CT Scan procured and installed at the Centre in 2014 was not worth N180 million claimed by the management. Reliable sources told Forefront that Siemens slide 64 CT Scan was the product originally prescribed for the Ear Centre, adding that the Siemens slide 64 is far ahead as an updated and sophisticated machine than the Toshiba Slide 32 that the management allegedly bought for said amount. The Union claimed that by this singular act, the Medical Director, in collaboration with the immediate past Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health Abuja, Mr Linus, siphoned into private pockets a whooping sum of over 60 million Naira belonging to the government. “It was out of that corrupt deal that, the MD, Dr Bakari built a mansion at Barikallahu suburb of Kaduna,” a staff in the Managing Director’s office told Forefront. Insiders said apart from sidelining the procurement office in the exercise, management did not advertise the Scan Machine purchase in any media organization for open bidding or commission the CT Scan that has been in used since 2014 when it was acquired, noting that this action constitute a serious breach and offense based on the existing Procurement Act. Forefront investigations revealed that complaints coming from experts at the Centre hovers around the fact that the slide 32 Toshiba is not delivering appropriate results required of modern scanning machines. This development has given the Hospital a bad name as many patients, who complained that its results unreliable, are now seeking alternative solutions for their ENT problems. Not yet done, the Union further alleged that there is total neglect and lack of maintenance culture within the Centre, resulting in heavy rots witnessed in most consulting rooms in the hospital. Also, worrisome is the allegations that the Managing Director constantly shies away from the theater because he lacks basic skills required of an ENT doctor to operate on patients. One of the ENT theatre attendants told Forefront that “the Managing Director does not actually know how to use some of the medical equipments very well, hence his refusal to handle operations on patients. It is sad that his entire mind seems to be focused on making money and enjoying the best of life because most workers have overheard him suggesting such at different times in the past.” Another insider claimed that “these allegations could be true if one remembers that when he (Bakari) was contracted to work with the former Medical Director, Professor Babagana Ahmad. Asked to supervise the purchase of stationeries and other materials, he fraudulently jerked up prices, a development that saw Professor Babagana forcing him to refund the money and advised him against such unholy practices in future.” “Again, during his trip to Saudi Arabia, from where he absconded, the staff overhead him boasting that, he will make money there in dollars. All these are pointers to the fact that, Dr Bakari is materialistic and could be relied upon” the insider further alleged. Our sources said another finding that could nail Dr Bakari is his lack of respect for due process and non compliance with the Single Treasury Account (TSA) introduced by the Change regime of President Buhari. As a way of circumventing existing federal government financial regulations, he has continuously relied on saving revenues in the hospital’s strong room without remitting such to the stipulated Federation Account, popularly called TSA. There are also claims that various accounts belonging to most management staff and Heads of Department were fraudulently credited with cash ranging from N250,000 to N300,000 and above without any cogent reason and explanations from the big boss at the time when the deal to purchase the controversial machine was struck. Findings indicated that the can of worms blew open when a staff whose account was credited sought to know why money was deducted from his monthly salary in the name of staff loan. Another version of the claims stated that a staff confronted the Medical Director (MD) Dr. Aminu Bakari and sought to know why his account was credited unexpectedly without prior knowledge or explanation. This development has caused lots of discordant tones among ranking doctors and Heads of department. “The management is now in disarray over the unsolicited loans facility extended to the staff”, our source hinted. Other serious accusations include claims that Dr Bakari was unfit for appointment as Managing Director of NECC in the first place, following his abscondment from Saudi Arabia, when he was contracted to work as ENT consultant. In a letter signed by its Director General and Director of Personnel, the hospital said, “Dr Bakari has absconded from King Khaleed Hospital and as a result barred from working in any hospital within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the next two years.” It further read in part, “King Khaleed administration certifies that the above name (Dr Aminu Bakari) has contracted with the Ministry of Health in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as Consultant ENT. His contract has been terminated on 28/02/1431 which is equivalent to 13/02/2010 because he did not come back from vacation. It is not allow to change his sponsorship or to re-contract with him in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia unless after two years.” “This letter ought to disqualify him from becoming the Medical Director of the National Ear Care Center, in the first instance. This letter was tendered before the screening committee when the Managing Director of NECC was being screened, but curiously overlooked by the former Managing Director,” a reliable source said. However, when contacted, Dr. Aminu Baraki halfheartedly dismissed the damning allegations, describing it as “outright witch-hunting by mischief makers” within and outside the centre, who do not like him. Pressed further to volunteer his reaction over the issues raised, the Managing Director pleaded that until there is a written permission from the immediate past Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, he would be in any position to make futher comments. Forefront however gathered that the Managing Director reportedly told some select group of journalists that the said funds and procurement process were approved by the relevant authority and went through the procurement office. On due process of advertising the bid and commissioning of the equipment, Dr. Baraki explained that the procurement office recognized only three companies with reliable CT scan and therefore advised against advert placement to avoid attracting Chinese and substandard CT Scan product. “Since the procurement office is the one buying, they know the companies themselves; I’ve no reason to suggest, advertised or intervene. They bought it, brought it and installed for us to make best use of it”, he added. While debunking insinuations that revenue generated in the hospital are kept in his strong room, he said all incomes are remitted on lines, and there are documents available for people to see. Sources close to Dr Bakari said there is the postulation that the immediate past Medical Director, Professor Babagana Ahmad is responsible for all his travails, particularly in relations to his alleged incompetence and disregard to the Procurement Act. Our sources hinted that on at least two occasions, Dr Bakari has reported the former Managing Director to some Islamic clerics in Kaduna metropolis for what he called reconciliation and likely ceasefire over internal wrangling within the hospital. However, Forefront gathered Dr Babagana has repeatedly denied having anything whatsoever to do with current happenings at the Centre. In the same vein, the MD debunked claims of lack of relevant and vital drugs for Ear treatment at the Centre’s pharmacy, stating that except on few occasions when they ran out of the stock and had to refer patients to purchase such drugs from outside. This he explained is a common practice in all medical establishments. On claims of rots in the Centre, a confidant of the embattled Managing Director said, “You can go round the clinics and see it for yourself if there are rots as alleged”. But a senior staff at the Centre, who seek anonymity, volunteered thus, “all these allegations against Dr Bakari are true, and we are calling on the new Minister of Health, in collaboration with EFCC to investigate all the issues in contention.” According to the said staff, “Again, it is a repercussion for the help and assistance that the former Managing Director, Professor Babagana Ahmad rendered to Dr Bakari, who he personally brought to Kaduna; employed him; and ensure he became the substantive Managing Director after him. However, after his emergence as the new man on the block, Dr Bakari began to malign and systematically destroy Babagana’s legacies in NECC. So, it is his cross to carry,” the staff said. While maintaining that time will unravel the truth of these allegations, which from all intents and purposes seem to hold water, our source urged the Federal Ministry of Health to urgently take steps to get to the root of ongoing agitations at Centre before things go out of control.