Health minister admits graft in govt hospitals

Vardhan says steps have been taken against it, and result will be seen soon

Health minister admits graft in govt hospitals

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has for the first time publicly accepted that there is widespread corruption in purchases by government hospitals. 

He said that as a medico, he knows that if money is made through the allocation of beds or kickbacks from suppliers, it is sleaze. “What is equally corrupt is the silent practice of reserving beds and facilities for employees or VIPs. I intend to rectify both these forms of corruption,” said Vardhan in a statement on Saturday.

After coming under attack for removing whistle-blowing IFS officer Sanjeev Chaturvedi as AIIMS Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO), the minister said various forms of corruption exist in Central hospitals, and efforts are underway to end this “systemic and symptomatic” graft.

Defending Chaturvedi's removal, Vardhan said his designation as the CVO was opposed by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in 2012 and 2013. And by removing him, “I therefore did my bit to restore the image of the CVC”, he said. Vardhan said he was aware as a doctor that corruption exists in hospitals—from allocation of beds to kickbacks from suppliers.

“In my first 90 days in office, hardly a day has passed without inquiring into the transparency of the ministry and its outposts. The results are going to be in the public domain,” he said.

He has placed all systems in Central hospitals, including AIIMS, “under critical review to end systemic and symptomatic corruption”. Regretting that a political slant was given to the “re-profiling” of Chaturvedi's job, the minister said, “He has neither been suspended nor transferred.”

The health minister claimed that Chaturvedi's appointment as the CVO, disregarding the CVC's directives, was “part of a design to weaken the institution”. The previous government and AIIMS had defended the appointment, saying AIIMS was an autonomous body and the CVC's nod for it was not necessary.

Chaturvedi's sympathisers, including AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, have alleged that he was removed due to “political pressure”, and the CVC had been communicating with him as AIIMS CVO as long as he was there.  

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