Agartala: A day after former health minister and ruling BJP MLA Sudip Roy Barman put forth allegations of fund misuse in procuring COVID-19 medical kits, Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb has ordered an inquiry by a two-member committee into the matter.
Addressing a press conference, law minister Ratan Lal Nath said that following the allegation brought against the department, health secretary Dr Debashish Basu and national health mission (NHM) director Aditi Majumder were removed from their posts.
“A two-member committee comprising finance secretary Tanushree Debbarma and industries and commerce secretary Kiran Gitte have been formed to inquire into the allegations of fund misuse by the health department,” Nath said.
Roy Barman was the health minister in the present BJP-IPFT government until he was axed from the state cabinet in May 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and the chief minister took over his department.
In his letter to chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, the MLA of Agartala constituency alleged that some of the traders with active support from senior officials of the state health department are adopting fraudulent means and taking advantage of the present situation.
“Government of India in a gazette notification, dated March 21 last, has fixed the rate of hand sanitizers saying that it will not be more than Rs 100 per bottle of 200ml. The prices of other quantities of hand sanitizers shall be fixed in the proportion of these prices. As such, maximum retail price of a 500 ml hand sanitizer stands at Rs 250,” Roy Barman wrote.
Roy Barman also said that the mission director for NHM on April 9, almost 20 days of issuance of the guidelines of the Centre, placed an order with ‘Mayank Technocracy’ for 500 ml hand sanitizers at Rs 320 plus 12% GST, which equals to Rs 359.
For each 500 ml bottle of hand sanitizer, the state paid an extra amount of Rs 109, violating the guidelines of the Central government. The total excess amount of Rs 5.45 lakh is being paid for the supply of 5,000 bottles from the state government in this time of national crisis, Roy Barman said.
The letter also cited that the mission director, NHM ordered for the supply of COVID-19 testing kits namely ‘N-COV Real-time Detection Kit’ at a rate of Rs 2,912 including GST, whereas the state had earlier procured kits at a price at Rs 1,150 per kit, the former state health minister alleged.
“Within this span of three days, cost of testing kit was raised from Rs 1,150 to Rs 2,912, a difference of Rs 1,762 per kit. So, total difference in amount in order for supply of these 1,920 kits stands to be Rs 33,83,040,” Roy Barman added.
He also said that the first order was placed before a well-reputed company of India, specialised in dealing with this COVID-19 kit while the second order was placed in a high price with a Tripura-based company whose trade license expired on March 31.
He added that as per the observation of closely related associates, the health department has miserably failed to store and make necessary data entry of the COVID-19 related stock which was received from different government agencies, PSUs, private bodies under CSR activities. Those items have been misplaced and even sold by a few health professionals and others, he alleged.