House panel directs CIAA to investigate alleged corruption in medical equipment procurement

Kathmandu / Dec 18: The parliamentary Public Accounts committee (PAC) has directed the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to further investigate the alleged corruption in the procurement of medical equipment for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee issued the directive after holding a meeting with Minister for Health and Population, Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal on Friday.

During the meeting, Minister Dhakal said that he is ready to face any action if he is found guilty of embezzling state funds in the procurement of medical equipment amid the government’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am ready to face action if the allegations leveled against me are proven. In case I am proven guilty, I should be held accountable for embezzling state funds in the procurement of medical equipment,” Dhakal said.

Dhakal claimed that he merely forwarded documents received from the Department of Health Services relating to medical equipment procurement to the Cabinet.

“Accordingly, the High Level Committee on the Prevention and Control of the COVID-19 executed decisions of the Cabinet to procure medical equipment for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said adding that the Department of Health Services was given full authority to handle the same.

Minister Dhakal also said that the government is not carrying out any investigation into the alleged irregularities in medical equipment procurement as separate corruption cases are pending at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority and Supreme Court.

“We, like other countries, were also in a rush to bring medical equipment through the fast track process as there was acute shortage of medical equipment throughout the world in the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Earlier, the committee had invited the then secretaries at the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and then chiefs of the Department of Health Service over the alleged corruption in the procurement of medical equipment for containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April this year, amid widespread criticism, the MoHP scrapped a controversial procurement deal that it had signed with the Omni Group for supplying essential medical equipment needed for containing the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal.

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