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CAG measure of ill health

Calcutta, July 21: Lack of doctors to serve people in the villages has always been a concern for the government and to bridge the demand-supply mismatch plans were made to increase the number of medical seats.

The report of the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG) for the year ended March 2002 has hauled up the state government for its lack of planning in augmenting the number of medical seats and in the process incurring unproductive expenditure to the tune of Rs 2.08 crore. The auditors have pointed out deficiencies both in the planning and procurement.

According to the plans, 50 medical students were to be admitted to the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research and Rs 2.08 crore was spent in procuring equipment, furniture and library books, among other things. But after inspecting the facilities in August 2000, the Medical Council of India (MCI) recommended to the Centre not to issue a letter of intent for starting an MBBS course in the institute.

Non-provisioning of funds by the state government, absence of teaching and demonstration rooms in the out-patients department, non-availability of laboratory rooms and non-appointment of employees were among the reasons cited by the MCI for not giving the go-ahead to the course. “The state government, however, did not initiate any action to rectify these deficiencies till March 2002,” says the report.

And not just the failure in setting up an institute of higher learning, the health department has drawn severe criticism from the auditors on other counts as well. The health system has suffered because of lack of commitment and corrupt practices among officials, the report indicates. The comments are based on audit reports on the procurement and supply of medicines, other materials and expense accounts of health projects.

Government hospitals and health centres remained on short supply but medicines worth over Rs 34 lakh were distributed free of cost among clubs and associations in North Dinajpur over a period of eight months. The practice continued even after the auditors pointed it out to the chief medical officer of health in the district. “The district reserve stores was not authorised to supply medicines etc to any organisation not run by the state government,” says the report.

Procurement of chairs, tables and bedsteads without ascertaining the requirements of the hospitals cost Rs 1.2 crore to the state exchequer. The CAG report points out that Rs 5.65 crore worth of medical equipment funded by World Bank were not installed in hospitals. But the government paid for the maintenance of the uninstalled machines to Webel and Electro Medical Allied Industries Ltd.

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