Maharashtra govt under fire over ‘irregularities’ in medicine purchase

Allegations against a department controlled by the Shiv Sena; public health minister orders immediate probe

| Mumbai | Published: April 11, 2016 2:13 am
Deepak Sawant Deepak Sawant

A NEW controversy has rocked the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government and this one pertains to allegations of irregularities in purchase of medicines worth several crores.

As the Opposition targeted the government following a news report that appeared in a local daily on Sunday that claims that norms had been flouted for procurement and distribution of medicines using funds made available under the National Health Mission (NHM), Public Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant took to task and ordered a probe in to the allegation. The public health department under Sawant had procured the medicines.

Dhananjay Munde, who leads the Opposition in the Legislative Council, said, “I had complained about these irregularities in the past. I had even raised the matter on the floor of the house.”

This is the first time that allegations of graft have been hurled at a department that is controlled by the Shiv Sena.

Sawant, the Shiv Sena minister, was, however, quick to distance himself from the row. “Powers for procurement rests with the Central Purchase Committee under the Principal Secretary,” he said, adding that he would voluntarily step down if any wrong decision on his part is proved.

Sawant also said: “Action would be initiated against those responsible in case some wrong doing is found,” he said.

The allegation against Sawant’s department is that tenders for procurement of 549 medicines totalling Rs 297 crore were hastily awarded on March 31, 2015. Under NUHM, these were to be supplied to 26 municipal corporations, 65 municipal councils, among other urban bodies.

Following the newspaper report, the Opposition is now alleging that there were irregularities in the tender process. One allegation is that the advertisements for the tenders were published in dailies in Nagaland, Shillong, Gangtok, and Dibrugarh, although these parts do not supply medicines to the state government.

Another allegation that has been raised is that the medicine stock that was procured and distributed among urban bodies exceeded the requirement. Sawant has pointed a finger at the Directorate of Health Services arguing that the procurement of medicines is done by it. Even IA Kundan, Mission Director, NHM, has reportedly argued that the Directorate was responsible for procuring the medicine.

But in an indication that the blame game might have begun, Director of Directorate of Health Services, Satish Pawar argued that it was Kundan’s office that had notified him about the quantity of medicines to be procured.

“My job is to process the procurement process of medicines. The demand is generated from corporations. In this case, four to five corporations got excess stock while few got less stock,” said Pawar, adding that he had asked to recheck with corporations about their medicine demand as he found it over the usual requirement.

Pawar however rubbished the allegations of irregularities in the purchase. “ The procedure of procuring medicines was done transparently via e-tendering. Let there be an inquiry in the matter,” he said. Pawar claimed that medicines for only Rs 20 crore out of the Rs 297 crore were spent for procurement of medicines.

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