Saturday, September 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Doctor held guilty of fraud
From Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR, Sept 1 — Gross embezzlement worth lakhs came to light in the procurement and dispersal (distribution) of anti-tuberculosis drugs and departmental functioning of the TB sanatorium in a high-level confidential inquiry report.

The inquiry conducted by Dr Lakhbir Singh, Senior Medical Officer, Ajnala, and Dr Lamber Singh of the primary health centre at Chobal on the orders of the Civil Surgeon, Amritsar, against District TB Officer, Dr Mitterpal Devgan, on the complaint of Mr Bachan Singh, president of the All-India Rangretta Dal.

The inquiry report dated August 28 has held Dr Devgan guilty on seven counts. This includes embezzlement to the tune of lakhs in the procurement and dispersal of anti-tuberculosis drugs, misrepresenting official records, issuing bogus OPD slips, running a parallel OPD in the TB sanatorium, using official vehicle without undertaking any tour of the district, misleading to derive monetary benefit from two posts held simultaneously and embezzling money collected from the sale of TB seals.

The inquiry report holds that Dr Devgan procured anti-TB drugs directly from MSD, Karnal, without sanction or giving information about their dispersal/distribution to the CMO.

During the inquiry it was revealed a majority of the total procured medicines were issued to Dr Devgan himself and not to any patient or for the sub stock. According to the records, 70 per cent of the total stock is shown to be consumed in Amritsar city alone and only 30 per cent of it is attributed to district centres numbering at least 16 whereas the OPD in the TB sanatorium operates only for three hours daily from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

An enclosed document with the report, dated February 17 this year, of an acknowledgement letter from the officer to the Director, Health Services, Chandigarh, of the receipt of 67,480 tablets of echmabiol 800 mg and 9,069 pouches of complipa reveals the quantity obtained in a single consignment with each tablet and pouch costing Rs 15 and Rs 8, respectively.

Moreover, it has found discrepancies in OPD slips where many of the slips were without serial numbers. A large gap in three different serial numbers issued on a single day (July 10,1999) had serial numbers 1276, 1378, 1877. Many of the OPD slips were of chest hospital and many were found to be self-printed. Not a single slip mentions any reference for investigation to identify the presence of tuberculosis. A fee of Re 1 was charged for OPD during October-November last year while slips issued in December have charged Rs 2 even as the amount deposited is according to the charges of Re 1.

A bogus record was created after the inquiry was announced. The hospital record reveals six patients whereas the summary detail records 17 patients in a single instance.

A letter dated November 17 last year entered into the inquiry report as annexure written by the Deputy Medical Superintendent of the TB sanatorium to the Principal of Medical College, Amritsar, the Director, Research and Medical Education, and the Principal Secretary, MER, proposed the removal of Dr Devgan on the charge of running a parallel OPD, thus causing administrative problems, creating confusion for TB patients and causing loss to the Medical Education Department. It is mentioned that the matter be “pursued urgently” as the number of patients in the hospital reportedly was reduced which in turn adversely “affects the teaching of under and postgraduate students of the department.” The matter was reported three times in letters dated October 4, October 22 and November 2 last year.

The inquiry held Dr Devgan responsible for dereliction of duty as he had never undertaken any tour of the district or reported about any tour undertaken under the National TB Control Programme. A letter for sanction of vehicle without specifying the intended need or use was written to the CMO.

Moreover, the report holds the TB officer guilty of misleading and drawing money from two simultaneously held posts. “Along with the post of PCMS the doctor was doing a house job in the family ward of SGTB Hospital. He was drawing salary and stipend from both as verified by the copy of acquaintance of Accounts Officer, SGTB Hospital, whereas no proof of any resignation letter (for house job) was submitted by Dr Devgan”, the inquiry reveals.

On another count it was established that the TB officer embezzled 75 per cent of the money collected through sale of TB seals (to patients and others) which runs into thousands in number as no record of the expenditure of collection existed.

Earlier, Dr Bhola Singh Sidhu, Professor of Surgery, Medical College, Amritsar, in a letter dated March 22 this year had submitted to the Principal of the medical college that he was unable to hold the inquiry against Dr Devgan as ordered by the Principal as the TB officer refused to cooperate and present himself for the inquiry.

Later, the Principal had forwarded the copy of Dr Sidhu’s letter to the DRME to appoint suitable inquiry officer to conduct an in-depth inquiry and also proposed the removal of Dr Devgan.

Meanwhile, Mr Bachan Singh on whose complaint the inquiry was initiated has demanded the immediate dismissal of the TB officer to be followed up with registration of cases for fraud, embezzlement and corruption as an example to deter others from indulging in such activities. Back

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