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Scam slur on SSKM ex-boss

A former director of IPGMER-SSKM Hospital and four other officials have been accused of cooking the books to pocket Rs 38.16 crore meant for the procurement of reagents for pathological tests and other equipment.

The alleged financial embezzlement happened between 1999 and 2003 when Ajit Kumar Maity, the then chief minister Jyoti Basu’s cardiologist, was heading the institution.

Calcutta police have started a case of cheating, forgery, criminal breach of trust and criminal conspiracy based on an FIR lodged with Bhowanipore police station by current director Pradip Mitra on Tuesday.

“The accused persons are IPGMER former director Maity, its former secretaries Arup Kumar Saha and Indrajit Majumdar, former accounts officer Sudhanshu Shekhar Das and former storekeeper Achintya Kumar Goswami. They are named in the FIR,” said an officer.

“They have allegedly swindled Rs 38.16 crore from funds allocated for buying reagents used in pathological tests and other medical equipment for different departments of the institute.”

They held office between 1999 and 2003, when the alleged misappropriation happened.

The complaint lodged with the police alleges that discrepancies were spotted in purchase of surplus goods and falsifying the records of items in stores.

Swastha Bhavan sources alleged that many bills were drawn for dubious purchase of equipment. “The procurement happened only on paper. The forgery was detected during audit. Many items were purchased even though these weren’t required as the hospital store was well stocked already,” said a health department official.

Maity was not available for comment. Repeated calls to landline numbers at his residence went unanswered on Thursday. His mobile phone was switched off.

“He is unwell and did not come to the chamber today,” said an attendant at his Chowringhee Road chamber, Avenue Clinic Lab.

The complaint alleges that suppliers had conspired to swindle money from the exchequer by preparing and manipulating documents and government records and appropriated a sum of Rs 38.16 crore.

The police said one of the suppliers had recently filed a writ petition at Calcutta High Court alleging that the hospital owed him money for equipment supplied during 1999-2003. The court had sought an explanation from the hospital following which the SSKM administration filed the police complaint.

Health officials said the audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had revealed discrepancies in the purchase of items in early 2011. The audit report was forwarded to the state CID, which had later mentioned the “criminal nature” of the case in a submission before Mitra, the current director.

An SSKM source said the vigilance wing became active after the Trinamul government came to power. “Full-fledged investigations started and a slew of vigilance officers visited the institute.”

The police said the CAG report would be examined. “We have started a case based on allegations. Our job now is to look into the alleged discrepancies. We will check documents related to purchase of items and orders in the store between 1999 and 2003,” said an officer.

The primary focus would be to gather documentary evidence but the police could interrogate the accused as and when needed. “Establishing the role of the accused is necessary to get to the bottom of the crime. We have to verify if the alleged offence is negligence or intentional act,” said the officer.