Punjab pays four times more for favouring firm | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Punjab pays four times more for favouring firm

The Punjab health department has been twisting the policy clauses to procure laboratory chemicals, glassware, filter paper, and testing kits, to the benefit of the local private firm that supplied the same to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) for a price four times lower.

chandigarh Updated: Sep 09, 2014 14:57 IST
Prabhjit Singh

The Punjab health department has been twisting the policy clauses to procure laboratory chemicals, glassware, filter paper, and testing kits, to the benefit of the local private firm that supplied the same to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) for a price four times lower.

The cost to the state exchequer in the past four years is more than Rs 4 crore. “In-house testing facility graded by the National Accredited Board of Laboratories (NABL)” and “maximum discount”, key clauses in the tender notices, were enough to suit the company, Sunrise Enterprises.

Chemical analysts Dr Balwinder Singh, Dr Narinder Sharma, and Dr Rajwinderpal Singh, latter arrested in the drug laboratory scam on a charge of tampering with samples; health department assistant director Dr Ramesh Garg; chemical examiner Satpal Sharma (now retired); senior pathologist Dr Rajneet Randhawa; and microbiologist Dr Malkiat Singh of the PGI sat on the various “technical committees” that drafted or revised the policy on different occasions, as documents secured under the Right to Information (RTI) Act suggest.

The “in-house NABL-graded laboratory” clause, which meant self-certification of the products, was meant for the RFCL (formerly Ranbaxy Fine Chemicals Limited) products supplied by Sunrise Enterprises actually.

The U-turns

One such technical committee comprising Dr Rajwinderpal Singh, Dr Balwinder Singh, Dr Narinder Sharma and Dr Ramesh Garg had added the “in-house NABL laboratory” clause on November 10, 2009; while in the next meeting on January 6, 2010, the committee had omitted it in on objection from a Delhi-based company.

On January 14, 2010, the clause was brought back, only to withdrawn again on January 2, 2010, in a meeting in which Dr Rajwinderpal Singh was absent. On July 12, 2010, the clause was reintroduced by the committee of Dr Rajwinderpal Singh, Dr Rajneet Randhawa, Dr PK Sridhar, and Dr Malkit Singh.

Approached for her reaction, Dr Randhawa put the blame on the chemical analysts, saying she was a pathologist who attended the meetings as and when the directorate of health required her to. “I am not responsible for these decisions,” she said.

She was on a similar technical committee even recently, with Controller of Stores officials Surinderpal Singh and Manoj Kumar. It a meeting on May 14, 2014, the committee introduced another controversial clause, of “maximum discount on listed price”, to select suppliers.

The shady clause, added in the absence of any specific price list at all, led the controller of stores to float the tender for the current financial year on that basis.

False affidavit

Sunrise Enterprises had submitted a mandatory affidavit to Punjab Controller of Stores and the health department that it had not supplied the material for a lesser price to any state or government institution, including ESI (Employee State Insurance) Corporation hospitals, and would not do it during the tenure of the contract. “In case the price trend is found to be downward, the health department will recover the difference of price from the company,” read the affidavit signed by Sudhakar Kohli, a partner in Sunrise Enterprises.

In contrast, the firm supplied the RFCL products to the PGI for a price four times lower than the one quoted to Punjab. It supplied 2.5-litre glycerin (AR) to the PGI for Rs 368, and to the Punjab health department for Rs 1,300.

Similarly, 2.5-litre sulphuric acid (AR) cost Punjab Rs 840, and cost the PGIM just Rs 350.

Navdeep Kohli of Sunrise Enterprises, however, put the onus on RFCL for the supply of unnecessary chemicals exposed in part-1 of this HT series. “As authorised dealer, I’m just a chain between the manufacturer and the government to ensure the safe and proper supply of chemicals. It is the discretion of the manufacturer (RFCL) to supply the chemicals either directly or through me,” he stated in a legal notice to HT.