Hotel bills land Andaman officer in trouble

A senior Andaman and Nicobar official has landed in trouble after CBI linked hotel bookings in Bengaluru for her daughter’s marriage that mopped up a bill of over Rs 10 lakh to a Rs 79 lakh corruption case.

The CBI has registered a case against Director of Health Services Dr Shipra Paul and the then Chief Medical Officer (Stores) Dr Anwar Moosa among others, accusing them of “indiscriminate supply” of costly branded medicines despite having generic and low cost substitutes. The agency claimed it caused a loss of Rs 79 lakh to the exchequer.

According to the FIR registered on October 11 following investigations by CBI’s Port Blair unit, Paul allegedly booked hotel accommodation at Ibis and Novotel in Bengaluru in February 2016 for her daughter’s marriage.

“The payments to the tune of more than Rs 10 lakh for accommodation as well as food and beverages were borne by one Satish and M A Tauheed. Shabeeb has acted as a link for getting the bookings done through them on behalf of Dr Shipra Paul,” the FIR claimed.

While Satish (Jaya Medical, Port Blair) and Tauheed (T T Tradings, Port Blair) are alleged beneficiaries of the irregularities, Shabeeb is a pharmacist with the Andaman administration. None of those named in the FIR could be contacted for their version.

The Central Medical Stores supply medicines to different health units under the Directorate of Health Services in Andamans. The FIR claimed that between August 2015 and November 2016, there was an “indiscriminate issue/supply” of branded and costly medicines against generic as well as low cost medicines resulting in unlawful gains to private players.

It alleged that in the tender document, brand names were directly mentioned instead of molecular combination names of medicines, which resulted in participation of single bidder for most of the medicines.

When demands are raised by units, the CBI claimed, there were many instances where high cost substitutes were procured for even general medicines like vitamins, calcium, iron, pain killers and nutrients. Also, in some cases supplies were in excess quantity or without any demand.

It also came to light during the investigations that owing to the method in which procurement was made, there was a “substantial increase in the procurement of medicines” under the category of vitamins, iron and calcium medicines in 2015-16 compared to 2014-15 from private players.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 21, 2017)

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