Private medicine suppliers — and not the officials of the health and family welfare department — called the shots in the postings of chief medical officers (CMOs) across UP.
The idea was to sell the government sub-standard medicines and equipment at exorbitant rates under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the CBI has found during its investigation. The CMOs, who recommended such medicines, received a commission from the drug suppliers. They even made advance payment to the suppliers in violation of guidelines."The suppliers played broker between the pharmaceutical companies and the health department for medicine supply to government stores and hospitals," said a CBI officer. "To ensure things went smoothly, they got doctors of their choice posted as CMOs."
The racket was blown following the interrogation of one Mahendra Pandey. Beginning as a liaison person of a pharmaceutical company, Pandey has ended up a millionaire, thanks to NRHM. He has properties in Delhi, Noida, Lucknow and Ghaziabad and launched a real estate firm, Sleek Construction Limited, in Ghaziabad. His brothers Surendra and Brij Bhusan Pandey launched a pharmaceutical company, Sleek Pharma, to grab the government’s medicine procurement tenders.
On Friday, the CBI raided the house and office of Pandey in Lucknow and he was interrogated. According to officers, Pandey discussed in detail his role in the posting of CMOs. He had close relations with the health ministers under both the Samajwadi Party government (2003- 07) and the BSP government (2007-12).
“Pandey was not the only one calling the shots in the posting of CMOs. The other names that have come up are Sanjay Awasthi, Vikas Srivasatava, Raish Alam Siddiqui and BK Agarwal,” said the CBI officer.
A large number of bills and vouchers of medicine suppliers were seized by the CBI during raids on CMOs in 12 districts.