Kozhikode: A decision to fire officials who uncovered corruption within Kerala Medical Service Corporation Limited (KMSCL) has been revealed. 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 disciplinary proceedings are said to be attempted cover-up as well as vendetta .
Notices explaining why action, including termination of service, should not be taken against whistleblowers have been served on the Deputy Director (Purchasing) of the Purchasing and Sales Division of Karunya Pharmacy, which reports to the KMSCL. A deputy manager who reported to superiors the deletion of 3,000 files relating to shady transactions from the computer network also received a notice of reason.
The officials who erased the decisive records have, for the time being, been fired with a minor penalty such as suspension.
As previously stated, the corruption and irregularities were justified in the name of the emergency purchase of products and equipment intended to contain COVID-19. PPE kits, drugs and medical supplies were purchased at three times the market price and that too without tendering or quotes and stocked when the pandemic erupted in early 2020. Nearly Rs. 1600 crore has been spent by the KMSCL to purchase medicines, various equipment and essential items such as sanitary products since March 2020. Essentials have been procured and supplied with a blind eye to in-store purchasing procedures. The instructions of the current Minister of Health Veena George have also been challenged in this regard.
Much of the materials purchased were rendered unusable. Poor quality materials, including gloves, are dumped in the company’s warehouses even without entry in the inventory records.
When asked about the purchases, former state health minister KK Shailaja said that âeverything was done with the permission of the chief minister.
New audit agency
Orders were reportedly placed through the CEO’s personal laptop. Subsequently, more than 3,000 computer files showing the role of the authorities were deleted.
The auditors who would be close to the superiors of the KMSCL had examined the data concerning the purchases. But data after 2016 has not been examined.
Veena George, who expressed her strong disapproval on this matter, decided to appoint a new agency to audit the purchase data of Karunya Pharmacy since 2016.
In addition, another committee would be formed, made up of officials from the Ministry of Health, to review the data separately. The inspection of the accountant general has also started.
Action would be recommended against senior officials once the inspection is complete.
Attempts to protect senior officials who made the purchase during the pandemic had led to a major row within the health department.