Behind UP doctors’ killings, multi-crore health fraud

In April this year, Babu Singh Kushwaha resigned as Uttar Pradesh's family welfare minister, taking moral responsibility for the scam involving misappropriation of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funds in the office of Lucknow's Chief Medical Officer (CMO) — a racket that was exposed after the murder of incumbent B P Singh.

The money involved was a few crores and the men arrested were a former CMO, a deputy CMO who later died in jail and some other lower-level employees.

But the rot, in fact, runs much deeper. A review of the NRHM in UP, conducted in May by a team of officials from the Centre, has revealed a number of wrongdoings in the period between 2009 and 2011, when Kushwaha was the minister.

With no accountability whatsoever, civil contracts worth Rs 610 crore were awarded without tenders; about Rs 1,000 crore was paid in advance to various agencies; no attempt was made to recover unspent funds adding up to several crores; and there was no monitoring and quality control.

The report has been available with the Mayawati government for some time now. "The rule-book was simply thrown out of the window,'' admitted a senior official in Lucknow.

Chief Secretary Anoop Mishra said the state government has ordered inquiries by various departments and also sought a special audit of all districts.

The main findings of the central team:

* "No open tender system was followed to ensure competitive, cost-effective bidding,'' says the report. It adds that there was no rationale in selection of implementing agency, and "the state did not exercise due diligence to ensure best value for money." The contracts, adding up to Rs 610 crore, mainly involved the UP Processing and Construction Cooperative Federation and UP Labour and Construction Co-operative Association.

* While the normal practice is to make staggered payments, linked with the progress of work, the report says that the total amount was paid in advance in a number of cases. In all, about Rs 1,000 crore was paid in advance to the UP Processing and Construction Cooperative Federation, UP Project Corporation, Jal Nigam, UP Labour and Construction Co-operative Association and some other agencies.

... contd.

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