By Imran Ali Teepu
ISLAMABAD, July 18: The National Institute of Health (NIH) imported substandard and unregistered vaccines and syringes for its Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) from July 2005-09, evading Rs882 million in taxes by giving an impression that it was assisted and sponsored by the UN, Dawn has learnt.
A 30-page report probing tax evasion prepared by a federal agency, available with Dawn , also blames the United Nations Children`s Fund (Unicef), saying it rendered services for the programme like a “trading house” and pocketed windfall profits through “commercial transactions”.
Imported from India and Australia from 2005 to 2009, the value of vaccines for measles and tetanus was Rs3.25 billion.
The report said as no exemption was granted to NIH by the customs, the research institute-cum-hospital availed it by giving impression that the goods were UN imports (by Unicef-Pakistan).
Instead the Foreign Office issued exemption certificates in favour of the Unicef under the diplomatic and privileged cargo. But the report said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no authority to grant exemption from customs duties as it can only be granted by Customs Pakistan.
The document adds that the Unicef-Pakistan was not a consigner and the vaccine was delivered to NIH, maintaining that the import was not entitled to exemption available under the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1948.
The report reveals that a senior official of the EPI wing signed MoU for procurement services with a representative of Unicef-Pakistan, agreeing to “work together to develop and facilitate the implementation of programme designed to assist children and women in Pakistan”.