Bengaluru, July 20 (IANS) Refuting irregularities in the purchase of medical equipment to fight the Covid-19 pandemic in the state, Karnataka Health Minister B. Sriramulu on Monday offered to resign if corruption charges against the state government were proved by the opposition Congress.
“I will resign if Congress leader Siddaramaiah proves irregularity or corruption in the purchase of medical equipment by our government for treating Covid patients in the state,” Sriramulu told reporters here.
Claiming that the Congress was alleging corruption in the purchase of medical equipment out of frustration after losing power in the state, Sriramulu also ruled out an inquiry into the irregularities.
“Every rupee is accounted for purchasing masks, personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, ventilators, oxygen cylinders and other medical equipment for hospitals, Covid care centres and fever clinics,” asserted Sriramulu.
Accusing the BJP government of buying medical equipment and supplies at exorbitant rates, the Congress has launched a campaign for giving an account (‘lekka kodi’) of the amount being spent by the health and other departments for Covid care in the state.
“The equipment prices shot up since April due to huge demand from all states across the country and supplies were in shortage, as their production was limited before the coronavirus outbreak,” reiterated Sriramulu.
Sharing details of the expenditure incurred by the state government, Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan said the procurement of medical equipment by the state-run Karnataka State Drugs, Logistics and Warehousing Society (KDLWS) was transparent and the Congress was welcome to verify the accounts as the opposition party in a democratic set-up.
“As there was a surge in prices due to increased demand and lack of supply, some equipment like ventilators and PPE kits were purchased at higher rates to prevent delays in meeting their need in the hospitals,” said Narayan.
The ministers, however, did not give details on the expenses incurred by the revenue and welfare departments in supplying ration and food to migrant workers and in setting up relief camps to shelter them during the extended lockdown.
“Contrary to Siddaramaiah’s charge of purchasing ventilators for Rs 120 crore against a market price of Rs 40 crore, they were bought for Rs 10.61 crore as per specifications,” said Sriramulu.
Similarly, on PPE kits, the Health Minister said the KDLWS procured 9.65 lakh of them at Rs 79.35 crore as against the charge of them being bought at Rs 150 crore.
“Siddaramaiah’s charges of paying more than the market price for procuring N-95 masks, gloves and other medical equipment are baseless and far from truth,” said Narayan.
Noting that there was scarcity of medical equipment the world over, as even developed countries were dependent on China for importing them, Narayan said the procurements were made as per the guidelines of the Union Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).