10 convicted so far in the health procurement scam of 2007-8

Procurement: After almost three years of court proceedings in connection with the health procurement scam, two of the four health officials appealed to the High Court last month after they were convicted for bribery and official misconduct.

Dissatisfied with the lower court judgment, health ministry’s chief procurement officer, Rinchen Dorji, and Dr Samdrup of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) appealed to the High Court in December after the Thimphu district court sentenced them two years each for bribery and official misconduct. Rinchen Dorji was charged for bribery, official misconduct and having disproportionate asset and the court ordered him to restitute USD 6,000, Nu 0.5M and a Toyota Prado worth Nu 1.3M.

Dr Samdrup, who was charged for bribery, was asked to restitute USD 7,000 and Nu 0.5M.

The trial court also sentenced two other defendants, Nado Dukpa to three years and one month, and Norbu to six months. Nado Dukpa who was the ministry’s administration and finance head was given a concurrent sentence for bribery, official misconduct, embezzlement and owning disproportionate asset. He was also asked to refund Nu 1.454M while JDWNRH’s Norbu was found guilty of accepting bribe. Norbu was asked to restitute Nu 0.172M.

About 14 health officials including three health liaison officers in Kolkata, India, were charged for offence of bribery, embezzlement, official misconduct, aiding and abetting and disproportionate income.

In the first group in 2013, six health officials were sentenced to six months to more than10 years in prison. They were made to restitute Nu 6.473M.

However, verdict against four health officials have been deferred due to the suppliers implicated in the case not being available for prosecution.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has reportedly requested the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to follow up with the courts to pass judgment of four deferred cases in absentia of two suppliers, Pasricha Surgical and Vikas Medical, from India. The OAG charged both suppliers for bribery and requested the court to restitute Nu 7.733M.

ACC began its investigation in September 2009 after receiving allegations of health officials being offered paid trip to Germany and China amid bidding process. The scope of the ACC investigation extended to cover fraud and corruption in Government of India funded supply tender in connection to new JDWNRH and MRRH in 2007-08 as well as its annual tenders.

The commission found that the ministry’s procurement fraught with corruption, inefficiencies and mismanagement with many procurement officials in Drugs, Vaccine and Equipment Division (DVED), administration and finance division and JDWNRH having accepted pecuniary advantages in relation to supply tenders on various occasions. Corruption found to be more evident in medical equipment procurement than in drugs procurement.

ACC also found there was collusion between DVED and selected suppliers.

Rinzin Wangchuk