Move to punish whistleblowers who exposed irregular purchases in Kerala Medical Services Corp
Kozhikode: A move to sack officials who unearthed corruption in the Kerala Medical Service Corporation Limited (KMSCL) has come to light. Massive fraud worth crores of rupees over emergency purchases for the public health sector during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic is suspected and the disciplinary proceedings are reportedly a cover-up bid as well as vendetta.
Notices on why action including dismissal from service should not be initiated against the whistleblowers have been served to the deputy manager (purchase) of the Karunya Pharmacy’s Purchase & Sales Division which comes under the KMSCL. An assistant manager who reported to the higher-ups about the erasing of 3,000 files pertaining to the shady deals from the computer network has also been served a show-cause notice.
The officials who erased the decisive files have been, for the time being, let off with a minor punishment like suspension.
As reported earlier corruption and irregularities were justified in the name of emergency purchase of products and equipment meant for containing COVID-19. PPE kits, medicines and medical equipment were purchased at three times higher than the market price and that too without tender and quotation and stocked up as the pandemic broke out in early 2020. Almost Rs 1600 crore has been spent by the KMSCL for buying medicines, various equipment and essential items such as sanitary products since March 2020. The essential commodities were purchased and stocked up by turning a blind eye to the store purchase procedures. The instructions of the current Health Minister Veena George were also defied in this regard.
A big portion of the materials purchased has been rendered useless. Low-quality materials including gloves are dumped in Corporation’s warehouses even without entry in the stock registers.
When asked about these purchases, former state health minister K K Shailaja said “everything was done with the permission of the chief minister.
New agency for audit
The orders were allegedly placed through the personal laptop of the general manager. Subsequently, more than 3,000 computer files showing the role of the authorities were erased.
The auditors who are reportedly close to the higher-ups of the KMSCL had examined the data regarding the purchases. But the data after 2016 has not been examined.
Veena George, who expressed her strong disapproval about the issue, has decided to appoint a new agency to audit the purchase data of Karunya Pharmacy since 2016.
Besides, another committee would be constituted comprising officials of the health department, to examine the data separately. The Accountant General’s inspection has also begun.
Action would be recommended against high officials once the inspection gets over.
The attempts to shield the high officials who had carried out the purchase during the pandemic had led to a major row in the health department.
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