Times of India
31 March 2011
By Clara lewis
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has raised questions on the manner of appointment of the heads of the three top AIDS agencies in the state.
Chavan raised the issue at a recent meeting called by state legislative assembly speaker Dilip Walse–Patil to discuss issues relating to the setting up of the Maharashtra Legislators AIDS forum. Under the aegis of the forum each legislator will contribute Rs 1 lakh to the fight against AIDS.
Walse–Patil further pointed out that while legislators were meeting to discuss the expenditure of Rs 15 lakh, no questions were being asked of the AIDS agencies on how they were spending Rs 100 crore annually. For 2010–11 the agencies have received grant to the tune of Rs 126 crore. "The entire show is being run by bureaucrats but the government has no information whatsoever," he said. Chavan said the government had a right to know how the heads of the agencies were appointed.
The three agencies include the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) which works in Mumbai only, Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) for the rest of Maharashtra and Avert, an agency that is funded by USAIDS. What has miffed the state government is the refusal of the agencies to be subject to state scrutiny as they directly receive funds from the Centre and in case of Avert from USAIDS. An audit of the three agencies done at the behest of Walse–Patil revealed that though a state apex committee was set up to monitor the AIDS programme, its last meeting was held in 2001. The audit also showed that Avert has no permission from the state government.
"No documents were available at the state government level on the establishment of the Avert Society," reads the audit report. Smriti Acharya, Project Director, Avert, said the agency was set up through a bilateral agreement between the Government of India and the USAID in 1999. "As per Avert’s Memorandum of Association, the additional chief secretary (Health), government of Maharashtra is the chairperson of the society," she said.
The society, said Acharya, had submitted all relevant documents for scrutiny. "We have also asked the National AIDS Control Organistation to provide any documents it may have on the issue. We are awaiting a reply," she said.The audit also revealed that when MSACS was set up in 1998 the state public health minister was not informed about the decision. The decision was taken at the secretary’s level. Later the secretary did admit to it being an inadvertent error and assured that it would not be repeated. Health minister Suresh Shetty said unlike other states where there was a single agency to implement the AIDS programme, in Maharashtra there were multiple agencies.
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