Maharashtra govt orders probe in 'needless' purchase of medicines

Mumbai: Maharashtra government today said a preliminary probe will be conducted into allegations that "needless" purchases of medicines were made in the state under the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).

It also announced suspension of a senior official for alleged malpractice in purchase of medicines for civic hospitals.

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The probe will be headed by Additional Chief Secretary (General Administration Department) Bhagwan Sahay, Public Health Minister Deepak Sawant told the Legislative Council.

If the preliminary inquiry, to be completed in a month, reveals any irregularities, the government will ask the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to probe the matter further under supervision of a retired Bombay High Court Judge, he said.

The probe was announced after the Opposition alleged "needless" purchases of medicines were made in the state under the centrally-sponsored scheme which envisages to meet health care needs of the urban population with the focus on the poor, by making available to them essential primary health care services and reducing expenses of treatment.

Refuting certain allegations levelled by Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde of NCP in context of the scheme, Sawant informed the House the policy of buying medicines through Central Procurement Committee was framed in September 2011 by the then Congress Health Minister Suresh Shetty.

"It was then decided the minister should not be involved in the purchases of medicines and medical equipment," he said. Sawant said the government has suspended Director (Health Services) Satish Pawar in connection with irregularity in purchase of medicines for civic hospitals.

Replying to allegations of government procuring school materials at higher price, Minister for Tribal Development Vishnu Savara said in 2015-16 his department faced problems in buying items like uniforms, shoes, foodgrains and toiletries for adivasi residential schools.

He said the government will order a probe headed by a Secretary into the purchases.

Munde asked the BJP-Shiv Sena government to set up a corporation to ensure purchase of items required by all its departments are made through a single body so as to avoid any corruption.

Initiating the debate on Opposition-moved resolution on "corruption" in Public Health and Tribal Development Departments, Munde alleged that despite civic bodies not requiring medicines for their hospitals they were purchased and the Director (Medical Services) made them take possession of these drugs.

On purchases made by the Tribal Development Department for use by schools run for adivasi children, the NCP member claimed items like toiletries, writing and other materials were bought from non-branded companies and at higher than market rates.

"The government should order an ACB probe in purchases made by both the Departments under supervision of a retired Judge of the High Court," Munde demanded.

He also raised the issue of non-essential purchase of medicines by the Director (Health Services).

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