Tripura govt orders probe into misuse of COVID-19 funds

Tripura govt orders probe into misuse of funds in procuring COVID-19 test kits

Tripura CM Biplab Kumar. (PTI Photo)

The Tripura government has ordered a probe into alleged misappropriation of funds for purchasing COVID-19 test kits and other materials under the National Health Mission (NHM) and removed two officials for an "impartial enquiry", a minister said on Saturday.

State finance secretary Tanushree Debbarma and urban development department's secretary Kiran Gitte have been asked to enquire into the misuse of the resources, and submit a report at the earliest, state law minister Ratan Lal Nath said.

"Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has ordered an enquiry into the matter after former health minister and BJP MLA Sudip Roy Barman wrote to him, alleging that the government's fund was misused in procuring COVID-19 kits," Nath said.

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State health secretary Dr Debashish Basu and NHM director Aditi Majumder were removed from their present posts for an "unbiased and impartial enquiry", he said.

Roy Barman alleged that bottles of hand sanitiser were procured at a price, higher than the maximum rate fixed by the Centre.

"...the Centre has fixed the rate of hand sanitiser in a gazette notification as not more than Rs 100 per bottle of 200 ml. The prices of other quantities of hand sanitiser shall be fixed in the proportion of the price.

"NHM Mission director placed an order for 500 ml hand sanitiser at Rs 359 including GST, nearly 20 days after the central guidelines arrived," Roy Barman alleged in his letter.

According to the government guidelines, the price of a 500 ml hand sanitiser should not be higher than Rs 250, he said.

Accusing a section of the health department officials of violating central guidelines for procuring the product, he claimed that "Rs 5.45 lakh was paid in excess for supply of 5,000 such hand sanitiser bottles during the crisis of COVID- 19 outbreak and the lockdown".

"The orders for coronavirus test kits were placed at Rs 2,912 per piece against the price of Rs 1,150 from the previous order three days back," Roy Barman, who was divested of the state health department's charge last year, said.

The chief minister is currently holding the health portfolio as additional charge.

Roy Barman, further, alleged that the health department has "miserably failed to store and make necessary data entry of the COVID-19 related stock (mask, soap, sanitiser, hand wash etc.) as received from various government agencies, PSUs, private bodies under their CSR activities".

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