Government

AIIMS Director Supervising Corruption Probe Against Himself

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director M.C. Mishra in two cases of alleged illegal purchases over the years at the country’s premier government hospital. It has sent the reports on these cases to the health ministry’s vigilance cell, asking it to take necessary actions.

The health ministry asked AIIMS’ vigilance officer to investigate the allegations that involve the director. In one of the two cases, the AIIMS director has set up a panel of his subordinates to decide if any action should be taken. In the other case the institute’s vigilance cell has been asked by the health ministry to probe and take whatever action it finds appropriate. One of the subordinates on board the panel has been named by the CBI in the other case, along with the director of AIIMS.

Earlier, when a case of alleged corruption was found against another director of AIIMS, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had asked that the matter be investigated by the ministry and not the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of AIIMS, who comes under the supervision of the director of the institute.

The latest of the two cases involving the director was highlighted when CBI in October 2015 wrote to the CVO of the health ministry, stating an assistant store manager of the JPNA Trauma Centre of AIIMS, T R Mahajan, with additional professor at the trauma centre Amit Gupta, illegally procured disinfectants – with the approval of M C Mishra – worth around Rs 20 lakh from a firm, Drishti Medicos and Surgicals, floated by Mahajan’s son and daughter-in-law.

To ensure that the disinfectants, which were on AIIMS’ approved rate lists as generic products at much lower rates, were bought only from Drishti Medicos, Mahajan and Gupta allegedly misrepresented that the chemicals were proprietary and Mishra, who was then also the head of the trauma centre, looked the other way.

The agency has a written admission from Mahajan that the company involved was that of his son – which could lead to charges of corruption – but the CBI termed the incidents as “lapses” on part of Gupta. It noted Mahajan procured the goods without tendering, which Gupta and Mishra approved against falsified certificates of proprietary nature of the goods. “In view of the above, it is requested that such action as deemed fit in light of above findings may be taken,” the CBI told the health ministry’s CVO. The officer, Manoj Jhalani, subsequently ordered his office to address a note to the chief vigilance officer of AIIMS to take action as deemed fit. This meant Jhalani writing to himself as he also officiates as the CVO of AIIMS.

Neither Mishra, the CBI nor Jhalani responded to queries from Business Standard. But Gupta, as spokesperson for AIIMS, responded to queries sent to Mishra: “AIIMS has zero tolerance for corruption. Statutory compliances of CVC guidelines are being ensured. Timely audit of all procurement is being done. A joint secretary in the (health) ministry holds charge of the post of CVO AIIMS. The institute has a strong commitment for a transparent and clean administration. There is considerable seriousness of purpose in tackling corruption cases. The CVO has not pointed out any procedural lapses in the handling of corruption cases in AIIMS. The institute has also submitted its replies to the Delhi High Court on the casewise progress in a PIL in this regard.”

In December 2014 the CBI had sent another report to the health ministry’s chief vigilance officer alleging equipment worth more than Rs.60 lakh had been purchased without tendering from particular companies over several years in the surgery department, which, too, Mishra headed at the time.

The agency asked the vigilance department of the ministry to “examine the tenability of this justification (by the officials) and evolve a code for such a situation. Should any criminality arise, the matter may kindly be referred to the CBI.” The vigilance officer of the ministry turned the matter over to the vigilance officer of AIIMS – the same officer heads both roles.

In March 2015, Mishra instituted a four-member panel to decide if there was any wrongdoing involving him. One of the doctors on this committee was Gupta, who has now been named by the CBI in the second case of alleged corruption. The report of the panel was to be submitted in two weeks. The results have not been made public and Mishra did not respond to queries.

This article was originally published on Business Standard.