Financial fraud: 47 doctors under scanner

Representative image.

A medical officer in Kalaburagi district is in the soup for transferring government funds worth Rs 27 lakh to his wife’s account, documents revealed, even as officials in the department said 47 doctors are being probed for similar misappropriation.

According to an audit report, a copy of which was obtained by DH under RTI, Dr Shivanagappa Patil, medical officer of Chimmanchud primary health centre in Kalaburagi is accused of transferring Rs 27 lakh of state health department funds to his wife’s account between 2015 and 2018.

Probing further, DH learnt that as many as 47 doctors are currently under investigation for allegedly siphoning off funds, ranging from thousands to lakhs of rupees.

The misappropriated funds have been recovered from their salary or terminal benefits like gratuity and pension.

Confirming the investigation, Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey told DH, “Forty-seven doctors are currently under investigation for financial misappropriation.”

Pandey said heads of public health institutions are also the drawing and disbursing officers because they have to pay the staff.

For example, in a PHC, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANM) and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) are paid by these officers. 

Senior officials of the department said most investigations of the government doctors were conducted for three major reasons: unauthorised absence, misappropriation of funds and medical negligence. The second-highest number of investigations happen to examine financial misappropriation.

A senior department official, requesting anonymity, said, “Many PHC doctors do not know the financial code, treasury code, or the procedural lapses. So, to educate them on file management, administrative training for doctors has been started in Mysuru. A total of 44 doctors are being trained in the first batch.”

Pandey said that newly recruited doctors are being trained at Mysuru’s Administrative Training Institute. “We have started the training so that violations can be spotted easily,” he said. 

In Patil’s case, the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) that the department follows, indicated four money transfers to his wife’s account for compensation for
female sterilisation, incentives under Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram, hospital arrangement system, and payment to other technicians.

One of the investigators in the case said, “If it is a cheque, they cannot make the transfer at will as two individuals have to sign it. Patil made a part of the transfer in PFMS and partly through cheques.”  

Pandey confirmed the probe and said regular audits were the only way to spot such irregularities. “In this case, the PHC accountant should’ve known about it as he has to sign it too. All cases are not because of the lack of safeguards in the system, some of them are because of the criminal motive of the doctors. In three or four cases, we have lodged criminal cases too,” he said.

Depending on the extent of misappropriation, doctors are either suspended or their increments are held up, according to the Cadre and Recruitment Rules. At present, there are around 4,000 specialists, 4,000 MBBS doctors and 800 dentists in the state health department.

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