HSRI reveals the truth in response to allegations of opaque management of IDRC project funds

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thitima
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2015-02-27 18:13
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In light of media reports regarding the mismanagement of HSRI research programs funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada resulting in increased risk and lack of transparency in project operations, Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI)’s Board of  Directors established and appointed the Audit Subcommittee, chaired by Asst. Prof. Dr. Churnrurtai Kanchanachitra, to investigate these allegations.  The Subcommittee concluded the claims that the IDRC research programs are exempt from HSRI policies and procedures, resulting in increased risk of mismanagement, are completely false: HSRI’s management of IDRC projects is transparent, and follows its policies entirely.

Dr. Somsak Chunharas, Deputy Public Health Minister, Chairman of HSRI’s Board, has placed the utmost importance on this matter.  He asked the Subcommittee to conduct a timely investigation into this issue. As HSRI is a research organization supported by government budget, it is subjected to open and transparent audits to the public.
The Audit Subcommittee considered the evidence taken from documents and seven key informant interviews.  Key informants also included IDRC’s Asia Regional Director, who was interviewed via telephone, and Dr. Somkiat Wattanasirichaigoon, who declined to be interviewed by the Subcommittee.

The Subcommittee found that IDRC’s conclusions which Dr. Somkiat has referred to, was based on an Order by the then-Director of HSRI (Dr. Pongpisut Jongudomsuk).  IDRC was informed that this Order authorized the Project Leader to be exempted from HSRI policies and procedures.  Thus, IDRC concluded that this increased the risk of mismanagement for IDRC-funded projects, and led to opaque project management. Having  investigated into this Order, the Subcommittee found no such exemption.  In fact, it discovered that Clause 4 of the Order clearly states that, “In implementing this order, the authorized person has to comply to the HSRI rules, regulations, criteria, guideline and related resolutions approved by the HSRI’s Board of Directors.”  

Further  investigation  into the project’s recruiting  process, employee pay scale, and financial management, it was  found that all IDRC project operations follow HSRI’s policies and procedures. In addition, both IDRC comptrollers and HSRI’s Internal Audit previously checked on project management and   concluded that no project processes were exempt from HSRI’s rules and regulations.

The Subcommittee found that the project staffs were able to provide all relevant documents and evidence clearly showing the project’s transparent management.  These included the official letter from HSRI to the bank requesting to open project bank accounts under HSRI, the open recruitment process and  application announcement of project staff,  the interviewing process, and the way project staff’s salaries are established.

Dr. Phusit Prakongsai, Acting Director of HSRI, has informed IDRC of the Subcommittee’s findings.  IDRC sent a letter stating their satisfaction and acceptance of the Subcommittee’s results.  IDRC also indicated that the information they received in coming to their conclusions was based on information provided by the ex-HSRI Director (Dr. Somkiat Wattanasirichaigoon) and HSRI staff.  However, there may have been miscommunication and misinformation  due to language barriers. Key documents – including the aforementioned HSRI Order – were neither translated into English nor verified  information with the project staff  and  the previous HSRI Director (Dr. Pongpisut Jongudomsuk) who formerly managed the project.

IDRC is satisfied with the Audit Subcommittee’s findings, especially that its projects were not exempt from HSRI’s rules and regulations, and no longer has any concern regarding the transparency of the project’s operations.  This whole issue is a result of IDRC receiving inaccurate information and without verification before issuing their conclusions.

 

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