The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has flagged serious discrepancies in the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) of the health and family welfare department, especially in the building of public hospital in Vadnagar, the Gujarat Cancer Research Institute and the 1200-bed Civil hospital in Ahmedabad.
PIU, helmed by principal health secretary Jayanti Ravi, undertakes all the new construction works of the health department and the maintenance and repair works of all health infrastructure in Gujarat.
PIU incurred an average expenditure of Rs 1,100 crore every year from 2014 to 2019. The audit observed “several deficiencies related to maintenance of accounts, annual audit of accounts and fund management”. For example, as the audit noted, unspent balances of grants by PIU were deposited in Gujarat State Financial Services Limited (GSFCL) as term deposits, although such unspent balance must be surrendered. The audit stated, “The state government may fix responsibility for non-observance of instructions/rules of the government as it is a serious issue.”
The government as on July 2020, however, countered the audit’s suggestion to maintain proper records and annual audits by stating that PIU is “neither a society nor a board/corporation, hence accounts of PIU are not statutorily required to be audited by the chartered accountant. However, it is still in practice to get its accounts audited by the chartered accountant.”
Payment in excess of Rs 205 crore made to agencies by PIU was also found, wherein PIU had not obtained rates for market for rate analysis, in 52 works and further instances were observed where execution of normal items were classified under’ extra items’ as were different rates for same items of works.
These discrepancies were observed in three hospital constructions — Gujarat Medical Education Research Society (GMERS) Hospital, Vadnagar, Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, Ahmedabad, and the 1200-bed Civil Hospital, touted as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project.
It emerged that PIU could have recovered Rs 94 lakh from GMERS Vadnagar and another Rs 1.51 crore in the Civil Hospital construction if proper procedure of contractual engagements were followed. An additional expenditure of Rs 37.86 crore was also found in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital “due to deficient design of buildings” and another Rs 30.62 crore on rectification of deficiencies.
Other irregularities noted include extra expenditure amounting to Rs 29.88 crore for incorrect estimates and subsequent modifications.
Notably, the audit not only found financial and contractual irregularities, but also scrutiny of four selected projects revealed that provision for emergency ramp as fire escape was not made in any of the buildings of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.
The audit also found five buildings built at a cost of Rs 196.94 crore were left underutilised or partially used as of June 2020. These buildings include the Stem Cell Institute and the Kidney Hospital in Surat, Cancer Hospital in Rajkot, Nursing School in Valsad and GMERS Hospital in Vadnagar.
While the state said that these buildings are now being used as Covid Hospitals, the audit committee found this response unacceptable as “the purpose for which these buildings were constructed has been defeated.”
When it came to bid documents and tenders, it emerged that PIU “wrongly incorporated” a special condition “free of cost construction of buildings for district units of PIU” in tender documents of five works. Even the measurement of such buildings was not recorded. In 33 works, a special condition was incorporated in the bid document of “supply of electronic gadgets.”
“This clause was neither consistent with the basic principle of contracts nor implemented uniformly. Norms prescribed for approvals of works were not scrupulously adhered to, as 2,160 (33 per cent) out of 6,504 sanctioned works could not be undertaken due to non-allotment of clear sites. Designs and estimates for works were not prepared with due diligence. Tender procedures lacked transparency and fairness as provisions for invitation of tender, time for submission of bids, evaluation of pre-qualification bids were not adhered to.
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