In connection with allegations of corruption in the purchase of PPE kits and other medical equipment during the early phase of Covid, the Kerala Lokayukta has ordered an investigation into former Health Minister KK Shailaja and a select few others.
The CPI(M) leader was called by the anti-corruption body on December 8. The changes happened as a result of a complaint made by Congress leader Veena S. Nair, who claimed that kickbacks were taken in connection with purchases made in 2020.
PPE kits were allegedly purchased for Rs. 1,550 per unit, which was significantly higher than the going rate in the open market at the time, according to the complaint.
The decision was supported by KK Shailaja, who was the health minister at the time, who claimed that PPE kits were purchased at a higher price during the early stages of the pandemic due to a shortage and with Pinarayi Vijayan’s approval. As the lives of people were more important, she claimed that CM had approved the purchase of the kits only after assuring quality.
The Congress has also accused corruption in the purchase of other medical supplies, such as gloves, thermometers, and oxygen metres, in addition to PPE kits.
‘The Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd (KMSCL) workers told me that they were running out of PPE kits and if the kits were not purchased, health workers would be at risk. When I discussed the issue with CM, he asked me to get them from wherever possible, but only after ensuring the quality of the product. A PPE kit which was earlier available for Rs 500 was being sold for Rs 1,500. I asked CM if we should buy this, but he said we should as the lives of people are more important. As per the Disaster Management Act, we have the right to collect essentials. By the time around 15,000 kits were purchased, their market price began to fall again. So we cancelled the order for the remaining 35,000 kits and bought them at the market price instead,’ A few days ago, Shailaja had justified the action at a gathering in Kuwait.