The draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that unearthed serious irregularities in the procurement and tenders at the Goa Medical College and Hospital that could cost the state exchequer upwards of Rs four crore in avoidable expenditure is only the tip of the iceberg. This is symptomatic of a larger malaise that is afflicting the health department under the current regime.
That there is some underhand dealing taking place in healthcare contracts, especially at the Goa Medical College, has been known for a while, even though not said out loud. The first signs that things were taking a dangerous turn emerged by the Goa Medical College, disregarding protests that began handing out contracts at inflated costs to companies and service providers allegedly in the name of giving a better quality service.
The fact that service only marginally improved while simultaneously billing the government several times more should have prompted at least a review by the government. Instead, the disease was allowed to fester, and, subsequently, other contracts were signed -- to run a pharmacy, to supply medicines, etc all of which even on the face of it need a fair probe by an independent agency into financial proprietary even if the government claims that the deals are above board.
Instead, what we have is a government that is stonewalling any calls for a probe and is instead declaring itself innocent claiming that it is acting in the best public interest. Reality appears quite far from it with the public not benefiting, neither the state exchequer. The only people who are benefitting are people high up the food chain in the government and the health department.
It is only a fair probe that can bring out the truth. But going by the reality, besides a piecemeal ‘sample’ probe that was undertaken by the CAG, not even a real probe was announced. For all intents and purposes, the government and the statutory authorities are acting as if all is well and pretending to look away as those who are making hay continue to make hay.
What the draft CAG report has brought out so far is only the tip of the iceberg and the rot goes beyond just meal contracts and medicine contracts but covers a whole lot more within the health department. The system of checks and balances that are supposed to be in place to keep a check on one man running the show with impunity is clearly failing to do its job.
The least we should demand from the government now is to take the probe by the CAG seriously and not brush it under the carpet like they have done several times before -- the non-existent inquiry into the CDM Smith bribery probe (in which allegations akin to that made in the Louis Berger case were made, but the government chose to ignore them) -- is what immediately comes to mind.
Let us not descend into a situation in which the perks of power entail being allowed to get away with large scale corruption with impunity.