Kerala Health Minister denies allegations of corruption in drug procurement
Kerala Health Minister Veena George on Wednesday denied the opposition Congress` allegations of corruption in the procurement of medicines by the state-run Medical Services Corporation. The minister also said that neither Medical Services Corporation (KMCL) nor the government hospitals were providing expired medicines to patients or the general public.
She was responding to the allegations by the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V D Satheesan, who on Tuesday had cited a CAG report and charged that certain medicines were procured without examining their quality and 26 hospitals were given medicines which were past their expiry date.
Denying the same, George said that CAG had sent a draft report seeking the response of the government on the issue. She claimed that a performance audit was conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and in connection with that it has sought a response from the government.
The performance audit of the health services was conducted for the financial years from 2016-17 to 2021-22, the minister said. “It is not a final finding or report,” George clarified while speaking to reporters here.
The minister said that on receiving the CAG report, the Principal Secretary, Health, sent it to the Kerala Medical Services Corporation and the Directorate of Health Services and sought their replies.
The minister said when she went through the report, what she saw was that it was “probable” that expired medicines were given to hospitals.
“However, neither KMCL nor the government hospitals are giving expired medicines to the patients,” she added.
George further said that someone in the position of Leader of Opposition ought not to have made such remarks as a large majority of the public approaches government hospitals for treatment and medicines.
“It was wrong on his (LoP`s) part to make such allegations as it would create fear and apprehension in the minds of the people. What I understand is that he did not act like an opposition leader,” she said.
The minister also alleged that sub-standard medicines with short shelf life were procured in huge quantities during the last UDF government and the same were dumped in warehouses across the state instead of being destroyed.
Responding to the contentions of the state Health Minister, Satheesan said she need not teach him how he should raise allegations and that her statements were “highly irresponsible”.
“When opposition raises allegations, straight answers need to be given instead of teaching us how to raise allegations.
“The opposition has filed a complaint before the Lok Ayukta on the loot in procuring medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic and also pointed out the same in writing in the state Assembly,” the LoP said, hitting back at George.
Satheesan claimed that according to the CAG`s preliminary finding, expired medicines were given to 26 hospitals, 483 hospitals were given the medicines which were kept aside from distribution due to lack of quality and drugs against which stop memos were issued were given to 148 hospitals. “So should we not question it? We are giving these medicines to our children also,” he said.
Regarding the minister`s allegation that medicines with short shelf life were procured during UDF rule, Satheesan said that it has been seven years since UDF lost power and if such medicines came into possession of KMCL, there are guidelines on disposing them of.
“Those medicines can be returned to the manufacturing companies and a refund and fine can be obtained from them. Instead of doing that, for the last seven years they were holding on to these medicines,” he said.
Intensifying his allegations, Satheesan said when tenders are invited, the pharmaceutical companies that win the bid, supply medicines which have expired or are about to expire.
“They charge only a fraction of the bid amount for the same and the remaining comes back as commission to the government. It goes into a magic box,” he alleged.
The LoP further alleged that the quality of medicines is not checked when each batch comes and drugs of many companies are never inspected.
“This is the gravest form of corruption as it involves medicines to be given to the common people. Therefore, the reply of the minister is highly irresponsible,” he contended.
Once these medicines expire, their molecular combination changes and can affect the health of people, the Congress leader alleged.
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