The Punjab Health Foundation (PHF) has increasingly become a sanctuary for the relatives of top bureaucrats, who have secured lucrative positions within the organisation along with unparalleled incentives.
The ease with which their family members and close associates find employment at the PHF, a subsidiary of the Punjab Health Department, has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism.
“The revelations surrounding the Punjab Health Foundation's employment practices cast a shadow of doubt over the organization's commitment to meritocracy and transparency. Nepotism in public institutions not only erodes trust, but also obstructs the career prospects of deserving individuals who are often overlooked in favour of well-connected candidates,” sources within the PHF said.
Former managing director of the PHF, Ajmal Bhatti, appointed his two brothers-in-law, Naeem Bhatti and Umer Farooq, as assistant manager and researcher, respectively.
Currently, Ajmal Bhatti holds the position of Sargodha commissioner.
Dr Yasmin Rashid, the former Punjab health minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) stalwart, appointed her personal assistant, Zahidur Rehman Bhata, as senior law officer at PHF.
Similarly, former managing director of the PHF, Kiran Khursheed, ensured the appointment of her close relative, Sadia Hammad, as communications manager.
PHF deputy managing director, Salma Suleman, went a step further, appointing her husband, Asif Bashir, as the human resources manager. Former specialized health secretary Nabeel Awan facilitated the appointment of a close relative as an assistant manager at a hefty salary.
The sources also revealed that an employee named Waleed had secured a position at PHF through a reference from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Waleed seems to enjoy a unique privilege, as he can disregard his responsibilities with impunity. Whenever the PHF management attempts to address his performance, Waleed uses his influence within the NAB, effectively protecting himself from accountability for at least six months. This raises concerns about the integrity of the hiring process and the potential misuse of connections.
“In a country where public resources are precious and must be allocated efficiently, such practices in a government subsidiary like PHF are unacceptable. The misuse of influence, whether it stems from political affiliations or personal connections, undermines the principles of good governance and the effective delivery of healthcare services,” a high-ranking PHF official requesting not to be named lamented.
The core mission of the Punjab Health Foundation is to provide loans ranging from Rs500,000 to Rs3.5 million to doctors, homoeopaths, and other healthcare professionals to establish their private clinics. Around 70 employees, including both contractual and work-charge employees, have been serving at PHF for several years.
Surprisingly, approximately 22 work-charge employees have managed to get their services regularised through legal action, despite allegations of idle workdays.
When asked, Raja Mansoor, the acting managing director of PHF, acknowledged the presence of these appointments and the underlying issues within the organization. He pledged to investigate each case individually.
“The Punjab Health Foundation's cosy relationship with influential bureaucrats and their families will come under scrutiny due to the apparent nepotism and favouritism in recruitment,” he told Samaa TV, adding that these issues posed a serious challenge to the organisation's credibility and warranted further investigation to ensure transparency, accountability, and fairness in future hiring processes.