West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Friday (August 21) called for an independent probe into the alleged corruption in medical equipment procurement, the latest irregularity slur on the state government amidst Covid-19 pandemic.
Governor Dhankar said there was a multi-crore scam in the procurement of medical equipment and safety gear to fight Covid-19 pandemic in the state. “A white paper is called for indicating total purchases, sourcing thereof and decision maker(s),” Dhankar said, opting to hit out at the state government through a series of tweets.
“Independent probe can alone fasten culpability… Need probe to track money trail and ill gotten gain,” he tweeted even as the state government set up a three-member inquiry committee to look into the allegation.
The government got the whiff of the scam after some doctors reportedly complained to the chief minister Mamata Banerjee about the quality of the protective gear supplied to them from the state’s health department, said a senior official of the department.
While looking into the allegations, the department got suspicious about a bigger anomaly like purchasing items from a particular vendor bypassing rules, the official said.
“When the matter was brought to the knowledge of the chief minister, who is also the health minister, she constituted a three-member committee to probe the anomalies,” the official added.
During this pandemic, the state government so far made procurement worth more than ₹2,000 crore, through a committee formed to expedite the procurement process during the pandemic. Generally, the West Bengal Medical Services Corporation Limited does the medical-related purchasing but to avoid delay, the committee was entrusted with the procurement responsibility.
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The government during this pandemic purchased over 21.34 lakh PPEs, about 1.2 crore masks of various categories, over 40.8 lakh gloves, more than 2.50 lakh litres of sanitisers and several units of ventilators and other equipment.
The three-member probe committee will be headed by state home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay. The panel will submit its report to chief secretary Rajiva Sinha.
Earlier, the state government had to take action against over 400 ration dealers across the state for being involved in irregularities in ration distribution.
The action was taken after a series of protests across the state over corruption in the distribution of free food grains through PDS.
Similarly, the state government also faced charges of irregularities in the distribution of Amphan relief, prompting the state government to take action against around 20 panchayat leaders and several block development officers.
The governor said he was “appalled at fiscal irregularities.”