A probe ordered over a month ago into alleged irregularities in purchase of medicines worth crores under the Centre’s National Health Mission (NHM) in Maharashtra is yet to take-off.
Even as the BJP government in the state had on April 12 set up an inquiry committee over alleged discrepancies in procurement and distribution of medicines to urban local bodies under the NHM’s free drug scheme, senior state officials confirmed that the probe was yet to begin.
The role of senior bureaucrats stationed with NHM in Maharashtra, the state’s health department, and senior medics functioning with the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) had come under the scanner in the matter. In fact, the Opposition had initially even targeted Maharashtra health minister Deepak Sawant over the controversy.
For 2014-15, the National Urban Health Mission Commissioner had commissioned a purchase of 201 medicines worth Rs. 43.19 crore under the scheme for 26 municipal corporations, 65 municipal councils, and four cantonment boards. This was the first time when central funds made available under NHM were utilised for the purpose. Ironically, the procurement order was placed only on the last day of the fiscal year.
The trouble for the state began after it came to light that the medicine stock procured and distributed among these urban bodies far exceeded the requirement. The Opposition was quick to level allegations that procurement norms were flouted and tender condition were bypassed to favour some contractors.
Distancing himself from the row, Sawant had on April 12 appointed a committee under Additional Chief Secretary Bhagwan Sahai to probe the allegations and fix accountability.
The government had also suspended four senior medics including Director of Health Services Dr. Satish Pawar, Joint Director (Technical, National Health Mission) Dr. Raju Jotkar, Assistant Director (Procurement, DHS) Dr. Sachin Desai, and former Assistant Director (Procurement, DHS) Dr. Radhakishan Pawar. But medics in the Directorate of Health Services have maintained that the entire procurement and distribution process had been carried out at the instance of senior administrators and in the National Health Mission in Maharashtra including the then Mission Director Idzes Kundan, an IAS officer, recently transferred as an Additional Municipal Commissioner in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
Sahai, who holds a medical degree, recently moved from the General Administration Department to head the Agriculture department, but continues to head the probe; though the proceedings are yet to commence. The Opposition had earlier alleged that some drug suppliers had gained from the procurement order.