Kohima: The Department of Health and Family Welfare is under the scanner of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for procedural lapses in procuring equipment for the scheme “Up-gradation of Equipment Infrastructure at AINE Nursing Home and Diagnostic Centre, Jalukie, Peren District”.

This scheme was proposed in June 2012 to the North Eastern Council (NEC), Shillong under the state-prioritised list of projects for 2012-13.

The committee has directed the department to follow financial rules and ensure such incidences do not recur in the future. The committee also said that it must be informed about the vigilance investigation and ordered corrective action within two months.

The Director, Health and Family Welfare, paid Rs 36.66 lakh without actual supply/procurement of seven medical equipment. The department paid Rs 17.19 lakh for two items not sanctioned by the competent authority, the PAC report on the examination of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for 2015-16 stated.

The report tabled in the recently-concluded state Assembly stated that on examination of vouchers (April 2015) in the central audit section, it was revealed that the Principal Director, Health and Family Welfare had drawn Rs 1.75 crore and paid M/s K Sumi & Marketing Company, Kohima, against the bill submitted by the firm for supply of 33 Hospital/Surgical equipment. 

To ascertain the procurement status, a joint physical verification with the Department representatives and the nursing home was carried in February 2015. In the course of verification, the committee stated that out of the 33 equipment for which the payment was released, only 26 equipment valued at Rs 1.38 crore were received at AINE Nursing Home.

On cross verification of the paid vouchers with the approved list of equipment, it was revealed that two items (Laser Scan Touch Screen EM Model- Rs 9.55 lakh and Automated Haematology Analyser- Rs 7.64 lakh) worth Rs 17.19 lakh was not sanctioned by NEC.

“Thus, Rs 36.66 lakh was paid without actual supply/ procurement of seven medical equipment. Besides, the Department had also submitted incorrect utilisation certificate to NEC for the entire amount of Rs 1.75 crore,” it said.

However, in a reply in July 2016, the department stated that the supply order in respect of four items pointed out by the Audit for two items was placed and accordingly, payments were made.

For the remaining three items, the department responded that no supply order was placed and no payment made.

The Committee stated that the reply is silent as to why the payment was not released after ascertaining the actual receipt of the items. “The reply is not acceptable as the vouchers on which payment of Rs 1.75 crore was released inter-alia indicate four items that were not supplied and two items which were not sanctioned,” it said.

On the Audit query on why the Department submitted an incorrect Utilisation Certificate (U/C) to NEC for the entire amount of Rs 1.75 crore, the Department in a written reply said that the U/C was submitted as per utilisation of Rs 1.75 crore fund.

Another query sought the department’s comment on two medical equipment which did not feature in the list as per the approved list of NEC. A written response said that as per the letter submitted by AINE Nursing Home, in its meeting resolution it decided to procure certain items which were urgently required.

The other audit query whether any supervision was done by the health department, the department said that it had visited AINE Nursing Home for verification of equipment procurement, and a verification report was submitted to the committee.

During the oral evidence, the department stated that the proposal for equipment purchase was submitted by AINE Nursing Home through the department and all the placement was done by the managing editor of AINE Nursing Home, not by the health department.

However, the committee was convinced by the health department’s explanation. “It was also observed that the Department has failed to produce relevant tender documents, comparative statements, delivery challans, etc. during audit where the genuineness of expenditure could not be proved,” the committee added.

“Equally distressing is the submission of false Utilization Certificates of the entire amount. It is, therefore, evident that a lack of monitoring and supervision resulted in irregularities in the instant case. The Committee cannot ignore such loss of public money and therefore hold the Department accountable,” it added.

It, therefore, directed the Department to follow financial rules and update the outcome of the Vigilance investigation to the committee. It further said that corrective action must be taken on the matter within two months from the presentation of the Report in the Assembly.

The PAC (2020-21) was constituted on February 15 last year and is chaired by MLA Tokugha Sukhalu with MLAs Toshi Wungtung, Vikheho Swu, Tovihoto Ayemi, Muthingnyuba Sangtam, Azheto Zhimomi and Imnatiba as members, and six officials from the Assembly secretariat led by Commissioner and Secretary PJ Antony.

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