Kozhikode: A decision to sack officials who uncovered corruption within Kerala Medical Service Corporation Limited (KMSCL) has come to light. Massive fraud worth millions of rupees on emergency purchases for the public health sector at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is suspected and the disciplinary proceedings are believed to be an attempt to cover up as well as a vendetta .
Opinions on why action, including dismissal from the department, should not be taken against whistleblowers were served on the Deputy Manager (Purchasing) of Karunya Pharmacy’s Purchasing and Sales Division, which falls under the KMSCL. A deputy director who reported to superiors the deletion of 3,000 files relating to shady business from the computer network also received a show cause notice.
Officials who erased crucial files have, for the time being, been acquitted of a minor sanction such as suspension.
As previously reported, corruption and irregularities have been justified in the name of emergency procurement of products and equipment to contain COVID-19. PPE kits, drugs and medical equipment were procured at three times the market price and that too without tender or quotation and stockpiled when the pandemic broke out in early 2020. Nearly 1600 crore rupees have been spent by KMSCL to procure medicines, miscellaneous equipment and basic necessities like sanitary products since March 2020. Basic necessities were procured and stocked by turning a blind eye to in-store procurement procedures . The instructions of the current Minister of Health Veena George have also been defied in this regard.
Much of the materials purchased were rendered useless. Poor quality materials, including gloves, are dumped in the company’s warehouses even without an entry in the stock records.
Asked about the purchases, the state’s former health minister, KK Shailaja, said that “everything was done with the permission of the chief minister.
New audit agency
Orders were reportedly placed via the general manager’s personal laptop. Subsequently, more than 3,000 computer files showing the role of the authorities were erased.
Auditors believed to be close to the highest ranks of KMSCL had reviewed the procurement data. But data after 2016 was not examined.
Veena George, who expressed strong disapproval over this, decided to appoint a new agency to audit Karunya Pharmacy’s purchasing data since 2016.
In addition, another committee would be formed including officials from the health department, to review the data separately. The Accountant General’s inspection has also begun.
Action would be recommended against senior officials once the inspection is complete.
Attempts to shield senior officials who had made the purchase during the pandemic had caused a major row within the health department.