Political storm in AP, ex-minister Atchannaidu name surfaces in ESI scam

Vijayawada: Former labour minister and senior TDP leader Kinjarapu Atchannaidu is likely to land in trouble after the Vigilance and Enforcement Department’s inquiry found he was involved in the ESI scam.

Three directors of the Insurance Medical Service (IMS) implementing the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) scheme in Andhra Pradesh issued purchase orders for procurement of drugs, medical equipment, surgical items, lab kits, and furniture in the past five years in violation of procedures and guidelines. Now the vigilance department has found that the TDP leader colluded with others in the Rs. 85-crore scam that took place between 2014 and 2019 during the TDP regime.

The vigilance officials said that directors Dr B. Ravi Kumar, Dr C.K Ramesh Kumar, and Dr G. Vijaya Kumar purchased medicines at rates 136 per cent higher than the market prices and paid Rs. 80 crore to these bogus companies. The vigilance department has prepared a note recommending action against them and accusing them of criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act and cheating, criminal breach of trust, and forgery among other offenses under the Indian Penal Code.

The officials also identified the proprietors of various firms for allegedly colluding with the directors for monetary gain. The directors are accused of purchasing drugs and equipment without constituting a drug procurement committee and without inviting open tenders. The budget allocation for the purchase of drugs and medicines during their tenure was Rs. 293.51 crore. However, they purchased drugs and medicines from rate contract and non-rate contract firms worth Rs. 698.36 crore.

Dismissing the reports of the vigilance department, Mr Atchannaidu claimed that he was not involved in the scam and he had not recommended any company. “We introduced telehealth services during my tenure. The YSRC government has been trying to tarnish my image and blame me,” he said.

AP labour minister Gummanuru Jayaram said the perpetrators in the ESI scam will not go scot-free. “TDP leaders have resorted to corruption worth hundreds of crores. We have written a letter to the Prime Minister regarding the procurement of medicine at high prices and we have proof that Atchannaidu was involved in the scam. He will go to jail,” Mr Jayaram said.

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