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Scam stench in health

Behrampore, April 21: The chief medical officer of Murshidabad has taken on the district administration, charging it of bypassing a committee formed to look into a rural health scheme while procuring medicines and medical equipment.

“About two months ago, the rural health committee had asked for a thousand units of the anti-rabies vaccine. But instead of complying with the request, the administration bought X-ray plates, anti-snake venom serum, oxygen cylinder-adjusting valves and other equipment worth lakhs,” alleged Bijon Kumar Mondol, the district’s highest medical officer.

He is also the special secretary of the health committee.

The medical officer pointed out that the district administration neither informed the committee about its plans nor did it ask the health officials what medicine and equipment they actually needed.

“They (the district magistrate’s office) are informing the committee about the procurement only after the purchase,” Mondol said.

A section of health department officials also alleged that medicines were being procured without tenders being floated and bought from “people close to the administration”.

Mondol has already sent a note of dissent to the director of health services at Writers’ Buildings and the district magistrate on the way a World Bank-funded health project is being run.

The funds are directly controlled by the district magistrate who, by virtue of his administrate status, is the vice-chairman of the health committee.

When asked, district magistrate Manoj Panth brushed aside the charges. “There are 13 rural hospitals under this scheme and all the procurement of medicines and equipment is done according to the needs of these hospitals,” Panth said. He added that “all norms” had been followed while taking the decisions.

The chairman of the committee, zilla parishad sabhadhipati Sachchidanand Kandari, pleaded ignorance about the goings on. “The chief medical officer has not told me a word about what is going on, I will look into it,” Kandari said.

Sources in the health department said officials procuring the medicines and equipment were floating small, inconspicuous tenders and buying the items from the local market.

They even hinted that a couple of private cars were hired by a section of the officials with the funds meant for the rural health project.

The litany of complaints and apparent lack of co-ordination between the various departments in the district make obvious the state of affairs.

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