The Maharashtra Lokayukta has exonerated the BMC of any “irregularity” or “non-transparency” in an inquiry it conducted into a complaint filed by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, alleging corruption in the procurement of Remdisivir injections during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The order (accessed by The Indian Express) passed by Lokayukta Justice V M Kanade on January 3, said: “It has not been established and proved by the complainant that there was any corruption in the purchase of injection Remdesivir by the respondents. It is also not proved that there was irregularity and non-transparency in the purchase of this injection by them.”
The order comes in the backdrop of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) recently questioning BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal regarding allegations of malpractices in awarding Covid care centre contracts. Also, the BJP has been targeting the BMC, led by then Shiv Sena for two-and-a-half decades, for allegedly being involved in corruption during the pandemic.
The order said, “It is abundantly clear from the documents produced by the respondents, including the letter issued by the Central Government, that there was a sharp variance in the purchase price of injection Remdesivir in couple of weeks after March 2021 and that was on account of the increased demand for the said injection and reduced supply by the manufacturers and dealers of the Remdesivir injection.”
Among others against whom Somaiya had raised allegations included director, Medical Education & Research, St George Hospital Compound, Mumbai; Haffkine Bio-pharmaceutical Corporation Limited and Mira Bhaindar Municipal Corporation.
The BJP leader had filed the complaint on April 22, 2021, claiming that Remdesivir vials were purchased in a non-transparent manner and there was largescale fluctuation in its rates – ranging from Rs 658 to Rs 1,600 per vial.
Based on Somaiya’s complaint, the issues for consideration before the Lokayukta were whether it is proved that the method of procurement of Remdesivir injection was not transparent; whether it was true that there was corruption in procurement of the injections by BMC and other authorities; whether the justification given by the civic body and other respondents for procurement of Remdesivir was acceptable and whether any recommendation should be made to the government and the BMC to regulate the sale and purchase of lifesaving drugs in case of any future pandemic.
The Lokayukta has concluded “in the negative” to the first issue. For the second issue, it said “not proved”. For the third, the order said, “Explanation given by MCGM is plausible and accepted”.
For the final issue, the Lokayukta order made a recommendation under Section 12(1) of the Maharashtra Lokayukta and UpaLokayuktas Act, 1971. It said, ‘The government of Maharashtra shall consider passing appropriate legislation for ensuring supply of lifesaving drugs in the event, such a pandemic or natural disaster take place in future.” It added that the BMC and other municipal corporations shall take a policy decision and ensure that the lifesaving drugs supplied to them do not fall in wrong hands and are used for treatment of patients.