New Delhi, November 17
Delhi Vigilance Minister Atishi has alleged in a fresh report that Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar used his position to enable a “lucrative collaboration” between the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences and a company in which his son was a partner, government sources said on Friday.
While there was no immediate response from the chief secretary, the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in a statement denied the “allegation” of award of any purchase order or payment to any software vendor for Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Sources close to the chief secretary claimed that his son is not a signatory of any Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the company and the ILBS.
“He is not at all connected with the company in question as a shareholder or director or partner or employee,” they further claimed.
According to the “supplementary report” submitted to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the company was formed just 20 days after Kumar’s appointment as chief secretary on April 20, 2022.
The 18-page report follows an earlier one submitted by Aitishi on a land acquisition matter in south west Delhi’s Bamnoli village.
The minister in her report also recommended Kumar’s suspension and sending the matter to the CBI for investigation, the government sources said.
The earlier 670-page report had alleged “prima facie complicity” of Kumar in a land acquisition matter and claimed that it would have involved a windfall gain of Rs 897 crore for stakeholders.
Kumar, in a statement, had questioned “on what basis such allegations are made specially when the chief secretary has joined only last year that is 2022. Copy of the report is not shared. So on what basis one can respond or report”.
According to the latest report, Kumar, as chief secretary, also served as chairman of the ILBS governing council which, in a meeting on December 6, 2022, decided to set up a virtual or augmented reality lab at the institute.
The lab, meant for conducting research on simulation of various endoscopy procedures using augmented reality, was launched by Kumar on January 14, 2023.
A MoU between the company of Kumar’s son with ILBS to collaborate on conducting research and studies on simulation of various endoscopy procedures using augmented reality was executed on January 24, 2023, the report alleged.
The company was “chosen on nomination basis without any competitive bidding process and without any due diligence of the competence or experience in healthcare sector or virtual reality”, it further charged.
While the report did not provide the exact nature of any irregularity, it claimed “the MoU also provides a huge scope for profiteering to the company by providing it with joint intellectual property rights for any IP developed through this project and 50 per cent share of profits by both parties for any future commercialisation of work arising out of this collaboration”.
“Prima facie it appears that Naresh Kumar has acted in violation of All India Services Conduct Rules and has used his position to enable a lucrative collaboration for his son’s company at a loss to the public exchequer,” the report alleged.
In its statement denying the charge, the institute said, “ILBS confirms that it did not issue any purchase order or made any payment to any Al software developer or company. These allegations are totally baseless and are without merit.”
The ILBS “firmly reiterates” its commitment to “transparency and adherence to ethical practices” in all its endeavours. Any “insinuation suggesting otherwise” is “entirely unfounded”, it added.
The fresh report claimed that if the ILBS expertise and database was made commercially available through competitive bidding, large sums of revenue would have accrued to the institute, it claimed.
Instead, it was provided “free of cost” to a seven-month-old start-up with “no experience or expertise”, the report further charged.
In its response to the institute, the Delhi government said the ILBS statement does not deny that the MoU was signed with the company for the development of AI software without issuing a tender.
“It also does not deny the findings in the report that the MoU enables the company to have unrestricted access to valuable datasets and medical expertise of ILBS worth hundreds of crores of rupees,” the Delhi government said in a statement.
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