‘Constitutional hiccup’ stalls annual transfer to three key positions

In the government health sphere


The annual transfers to three top government health sector positions remain stalled for the past two months following what, senior medical officials described, as a "Constitutional hiccup" relating to provincial administrative appointments.

In terms of the transfers listed on February 1, 2014 with immediate effect, Dr. Hemantha Beneragama, Director, Cosmetics, Devices and Drugs Regulatory Authority (CDDRA) was moved to head the Family Health Bureau (FHB), whose incumbent director, Dr. Deepthi Perera takes over as Western Provincial Director (WPD) of Health Services in place of Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva transferred to head the CDDRA as its director.

Beneragama, under flak for not vacating the CDDRA to assume duties in his new position at the FHB, last week defended his action saying "I have already gone there twice since the transfer order, but the incumbent director (Dr. Deepthi Perera) has still not moved out".

"Surely, I cannot take over duties when the head of the institution is still occupying the director’s seat", he explained. "With the director seated there, it is unfair to criticize me for not assuming duties".

He said that a senior official, Deputy Director General (Public Health Services II), Dr. R. R. M. L. R. Siyambalagoda, accompanied him on his second visit to the FHB on Friday morning as he didn’t want to create the impression that he is trying to "force his way in".

Asked what was holding her up from taking over as WPD, Deepthi Perera snapped "You don’t have to worry. I will sort it out with the relevant director", and hung up.

Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva said that though the annual transfers are operational, there is a constitutional issue as health is a devolved subject. The procedure has not been followed as the concurrence of the Governor is required for the transfer of the WPD.

He said a similar problem arose in the Central Province, where Provincial Director, Dr. Shanthi Samarasinghe’s transfer was held up pending the Governor’s approval. Earlier, there was an identical issue in Wayamba.

Every citizen should understand the law of the land. The transfer orders clearly violates and undermines Provincial Council regulations enshrined in the Constitution, he pointed out. "This situation has arisen because the Governor should have given the green light for the WPD’s transfer".

But, the question that begs answer is whether the concurrence of the respective Governor was not obtained at the time these vacancies were advertised calling for applications, health officials said.

Asked when he intends to take over the CDDRA, De Silva replied, "The Monday after the New Year holidays. The issue should have been sorted out by then with the (former) director moving out".

The WPD plays a pivotal role as provincial hospitals in the Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts come under his jurisdiction.

Benergama said that he duly informed Dr. Palitha Maheepala, the Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) about the impediment and continued as CDDRA director with his permission. "I have kept him informed of the developments".

"In my career spanning 31 years, I opted to moved out to the FHB as I had completed my five-year tenure at the CDDRA", he pointed out. "There is no tangible reason for me to hang on here"

He claimed that the medical mafia and those who financially benefit from them are behind the mudslinging campaign against him. "I am prepared to move out of here at any time to take up my new posting".

Benergama has been accused of introducing the ‘fast tracking’ system for the registration of drugs, but Health Secretary, Dr. Nihal Jayathilake defended the move saying the whole objective is to break the monopoly by certain suppliers.

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