Govt’s internal auditor slaps department running the jan aushadhi scheme with charges of misappropriation, excess spending, and low quality control.
New Delhi: The government’s internal audit committee, the Office of Chief Controller of Accounts, has slapped charges of misappropriation on the Centre’s flagship medicines scheme – the Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
The audit report has made 14 points against the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI), the department running jan aushadhi stores, for irregularities noticed between 2014-15 and 2016-17.
It states that some medicines are being sold at prices higher than the market cost, defeating the entire purpose of the initiative.
The scheme, launched as the Jan Aushadhi Yojana by Manmohan Singh’s UPA-II government, aims to provide generic medicines at affordable prices through 3,200 jan aushadhi stores across the country.
However, the report alleges severe mismanagement of funds, as well as something much more dangerous for the public – the BPPI is accepting medicines that should be rejected as per its own rules.
The BPPI is also allegedly favouring private firms by overriding its own regulations, and making unauthorised payments for opening stores in Punjab. The audit also highlights several instances of discrepancies in the bills of travel allowances and dearness allowance, and goes on to name the officials as well.
Reached for a comment, Biplab Chatterjee, chief executive officer of the BPPI, told ThePrint that he was travelling and would only be able to answer queries once he was back in office in a couple of days.
The report suggests a need for special detailed audit, and a senior bureaucrat in the department of pharmaceuticals, the parent department of the BPPI, said on condition of anonymity: “We have ordered another audit and are expecting the report in the couple of weeks. Till now, no action has been taken, as we are awaiting final confirmation.”
Consumers left to suffer
On the issue of pricing, the report cites the example of a medicine sold for Rs 60 in the market, which is being sold under the PMBJP for Rs 64.21. This goes against the decision taken at a meeting chaired by the union minister of chemicals and fertilisers, where it was decided that the price of each medicine has to be “50 per cent of the leading brand in the market”.
The auditors also observe that the BPPI is not exercising prescribed caution while accepting medicines from manufacturers, which could possibly be perilous for the public.
“The drugs had to be supplied within two months from the date of manufacture, i.e. December 2016. All the above medicines were acceptable by February 2017. Whereas BPPI has received the medicines till June 2017, which is six months,” the report notes.
The BPPI has also allegedly bought six times the medicines it was supposed to, at a cost of Rs 47 crore and without any storage facility, as a favour to some private parties. The report calls out the BPPI for not considering that this would lead to a pile of expired drugs in the warehouse.
Further, out of over 650 medicines in stock, 16 medicines from three private suppliers contribute 35 per cent of the total stock. Two of these companies, the report states, are not even WHO-GMP certified, once again compromising quality.
Auditors say the BPPI didn’t provide details of the medicines already expired or about to expire, despite repeated requests. “If a special audit in detail is conducted, it will reveal the actual position, which will be in crores of rupees,” the report warns.
The report also calls the BPPI home to “huge superfluous expenders”. It cites the example of a bill submitted by one employee to the tune of Rs 2,24,797. “All the expenditure done in the programme is not supported by original receipts. She is claiming Rs 10,000 for taxi for one day,” it points out.
In many other cases, employees have been reimbursed for air journeys for official purposes where either boarding passes were not submitted or, in some cases, where the officials were not even entitled to air travel.
It also alleges that the BPPI has drawn the government grant in excess of the stipulated amount. As per the Memorandum and Article of Society, BPPI’s working and administrative expenses are to be met from its income and annual contributions from its members. However, it is almost fully dependent on government funding; its members’ contribution is less than one per cent.
And yet, the BPPI is spending “very liberally” — it is giving incentive to employees at the rate of Rs 25,000 to Rs 45,000, whereas in other government departments, officials get an honorarium of up to Rs 2,500 sanctioned by the heads of the department, and up to Rs 5,000 by the secretary of the ministry.