Editorial

A matter of life and death

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/17/2020 12:36:12 PM IST

 There were some critical issues highlighted in the RTI application filed by prominent citizens-Niketu Iralu, Robert N.Solo, Kuolachalie Seyie and Visedel Kin- on the department of health and family welfare with regard to the urgent/emergency purchases for COVID-19 pandemic after March 20.2020. The report was published in this newspaper on May 5,2020. Questions raised by the four applicants were indeed serious and which demanded adequate answers that satisfied all parameters of official procedures and legal validity. When the replies received from the department(H&FW) were found to be unsatisfactory, the four then decided to take the issue up with the state governor through a memorandum on May 11,2020. The applicants, pointed out that the department had bypassed laid down procedures to purchase various medical equipments such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), face masks of various grades, ventilators, surgical gloves, oxygen cylinders of specified grade, Dead Body Bags(DBBs)etc . What the four pointed out was that the department had not floated tenders, neither were designated Purchase Committee (PC) and Verification Committee(VC)/Quality Control Committee(QCC) involved in the entire process. In fact, the purchases were done by selecting the favoured firm(s) without obtaining the quoted rates, purchase rate with GST and MRP of items etc. The rates appeared to have been fixed/approved by a chosen few and also received by a few on behalf of the official committee and the records of which were not available in files nor were signatures of the officials appended, it was claimed. According to the applicants, the department claimed it had received till April 25,2020 a total of Rs.41,43,88,000 from various sources as preparation to contain COVID-19 pandemic. The department also said the purchases totalled Rs. 30,50,26,000 but only Rs. Rs.12,27,24,000 was paid leaving a balance of Rs.29,16,64,000. To pay the entire supply bill, the department further claimed it was still short of Rs. 1,33,62,000.What is strange is why didn’t the department release Rs.29,27,24,000 against the bill of Rs.30,50,26,000 due, instead of keeping it pending just for a deficit of Rs.1,33,62,000? What was worse, is the claim made by the four that almost all the items supplied were sub-standard, some did not have labels, while others did not have the information of the product, date of manufacture and expiry etc. In one instance, it was pointed out that a supplier supplied orders by doing away with the standard specification after writing a letter, informing that that the items were not of desired standard due to non-availability of standard packaging materials. The applicants reiterated their deep apprehension about something amiss when they said that even frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and health workers had rejected the equipments supplied by the department because they were substandard. Even some of the medicines purchased for use were allegedly about to expire with hardly one month shelf life. The sub-standard equipments with many bearing no labels nor information about the items and purchased with rates that are questionable were rejected by COVID-19 hospitals since these would certainly expose the workers to inherent danger from COVID-19. The issue is serious since it involves the lives of the frontline workers and the public. The memorandum has been submitted to the Governor and therefore, the ball is in his court and it remains to be seen what the outcome is going to be. 

 

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