Confronted with a slew of petitions alleging grave irregularities in the purchase of medical equipment, the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) Director Dharma Rakshak on Sunday admitted they were indeed bought at a higher price but justified it, citing various reasons.
Throughout a hastily convened hour-long press conference here, he was at pains to refute allegations over decisions he had taken during his one-and-a-half-year stint at the helm of affairs. The press conference was called even as the High Court is hearing a petition challenging his appointment while the Lokayukta and the SHRC have independently sought reports from the State government on the alleged irregularities.
Flanked by HoDs of various departments, who were reportedly coaxed to be by his side, the Director claimed higher price was paid for the equipment in view of better specifications, three-year warranty and eight-year life span. “The supplier will also maintain the equipment and ensure that it works 95 out of 100 days. The cost went up because of these conditions,” he explained, adding that a report was submitted on the issue to the SHRC.
Asked if the order for the equipment was placed as per the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) guidelines, he claimed that the Chief Minister and the Health Minister had advised him to follow the CVC rules but at the same time, gave him a mandate to buy irrespective of the price.
In the same breath, Dharma Rakshak accepted the fact that most of the equipment was lying idle but justified it on technical grounds. In respect of ventilators, which were purchased in huge numbers without first ensuring oxygen supply, the Director came up with a strange logic.
“We had placed the order for ventilators much before installing oxygen pipelines. If it was done later, fixing ventilators will be delayed as it will take time to get the equipment. That is why the ventilators are lying unused for one month,” he explained. He pointed out that money would be paid to the supplier only after the ventilators were fixed.
“NIMS funds have not been wasted. The hospital is now merely providing space for the supplier to keep the ventilators,” he added.
As many as 95 ventilators were procured in the last one year at a cost ranging from Rs 6.99 lakh to Rs 9.56 lakh each for normal ones and Rs 3.67 lakh to Rs 4.08 lakh each for portable ventilators.
On the cost of operation theatre tables, he said NIMS had acquired them for Rs 28.81 lakh each, with a three-year warranty. The purchase price at the Directorate of Medical Education, Raipur, was Rs 59 lakh each, he said.
The Director also came up with a bizarre explanation for purchasing an outdated CT scan (16 slices) instead of the modern CT scan with 250 slices. “You are blaming me for purchasing certain equipment at a higher price and you are also blaming me for purchasing some other equipment at a cheaper rate,” was Dharma Rakshak’s explanation for purchasing completely outdated CT scan. The one that NIMS purchased cost around Rs 2.5 crore while the latest is available only for upwards of Rs 8 crore.
Asked about reports on his removal, Dharma Rakshak said, “You ask the government. I have not done anything which is so wrong.”