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Spat over Rs 1-crore bill

Malda, March 31: The treasury and the district health authorities are caught in a dispute over the payment of Rs 1 crore, the medicine bill for last year.

The treasury has not only stalled the payment of the amount ' the bill for which has been sent to them last week ' but it has also demanded an explanation as to why the bills were sent so late.

'We are verifying if the medicines were purchased by abiding government rules,' said additional district magistrate Bhabani Prasad Barat, who looks after the health department. 'We have asked the health authorities to submit all documents supporting the purchase of the drugs.'

The health department has submitted bills amounting to over Rs 1 crore for medicines that were bought from June to November 2005 for the district hospital and six rural hospitals, said a source. According to government rules, before buying medicines, the health department must get the drugs tested in laboratories, reports of which, have to be attached with the bills. Besides, a certificate of the store-in-charge, copy of the order of the district purchasing committee of medicines and other equipment and also a copy of the tender have to be sent to the treasury.

The treasury officials, however, reportedly found none of the documents attached. Besides, the delay in receiving the bill has also irked officials, the source said. 'The delay indicates that something is wrong in the process,' an official said.

Their suspicion does not seem unfounded either. 'We were also kept in the dark about the bulk purchase of medicines made during those six months,' said Gautam Chakraborty, the chairman of the purchasing committee and also of the zilla parishad.

According to treasury officials, this has been done earlier. Just a few months ago, they had reportedly sent back a bill of Rs 7 lakh to the health department. 'Such bills have been coming in since the new chief medical officer of health (CMOH) joined,' a treasury official alleged.

Apparently oblivious to the charge, CMOH Gopal Sarkar said: 'I do not know why the treasury is sending back the bills. We followed the government rules while buying the drugs.' Regarding the delay in sending the bills, Sarkar said they had waited for money to come to the cash-strapped government treasury.

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