Health ministry denies World Bank charges of fraud

March 11th, 2008 - 10:00 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) Denying charges of fraud and corruption the World Bank levelled in its review of health projects in India, the government Tuesday said it could cause incalculable damage to the credibility of the country’s most successful disease control programmes in TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS. In its 64-page response to the World Bank, the health ministry said the bank’s Detailed Implementation Review report erroneously created an impression that the health sector delivery system in India is beset with fraud and corruption.

The World Bank detected fraud and corruption in five health projects worth $568 million.

The report was compiled after experts studied 852 tenders given by the central government and 14,000 tenders allotted by the states. The report was submitted to the ministry in January.

A Detailed Implementation Review launched by the World Bank in 2006 and supported by the Government of India found serious incidents of fraud and corruption in five health projects. The projects began implementation between 1997 and 2003, financed by the government of India, the World Bank and other donors.

Cases of fraud and corruption in projects relating to eradication of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS control were detected in the review.

Speaking to IANS, Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said, “By erroneously creating an impression that the health sector delivery system in India is beset with fraud and corruption, the DIR has done incalculable damage to the credibility of successful disease control programmes.

In its response, the ministry cited a number of “so-called wrong doings”.

Giving a point-by-point rebuttal to some of the findings, the ministry — whose answers have been published in the Wall Street Journal Monday - said its AIDS programme has been appreciated by the world.

“Our programme is internationally recognised and even the World Bank has called it the most successful programmes in the world. This (DIR) could have long-term adverse impact on the implementation of these programmes. This damage would be far greater than what was sought to be fixed by the DIR,” the government response said.

Dayal said people taking treatment for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis would find it difficult to believe the government after such a report. “It is extremely necessary to maintain the credibility of these health programmes.”

“This report worries us as we are providing long-term treatments,” he added.

Dayal said the ministry has already ordered Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) enquiry into wrongdoings in some cases.

Citing some of the wrong judgements, Dayal said the DIR has blamed the ministry for collusion of two companies wanting to bid for tuberculosis medicines.

“Before they could make a bid, we cancelled their registration so there was no question that they were able to procure the TB drugs. We took prompt action. They (World Bank) should have appreciated our work,” he added.

“Despite our request, the DIR did not provide any evidence to substantiate allegations of bribery or selection bias. They did not take us into confidence. They did not consult us when they were compiling their report,” Dayal said.

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