Drug procurement rackets: GMOA wants mastermind arrested



Dr. Aluthge

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The mastermind behind the procurement of a stock of substandard intravenous human immunoglobulin (IVIG) and misappropriating a huge amount of public funds had to be revealed, the secretary of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), Dr. Haritha Aluthge told The Island.

“There is a broad public discussion on how this transpired, what the government has done, and the status of the investigation, especially following the recent arrests. Our stance is that an impartial investigation must be conducted into not only this but also the entire medical procurement process,” he said.

The GMOA had presented a 10-step programme spelling out how to address the issues in the procurement process a year ago, Dr. Aluthge said. Other health sector unions had also made separate proposals. However, nothing had been done until damning evidence emerged about the procurement of a stock of substandard intravenous human immunoglobulin, Dr. Aluthge said.

“The National Audit Office has conducted several investigations on corruption in the health sector. We want the government to implement the recommendations made by the National Audit Office. We must not forget that we are dealing with human lives,” Dr. Aluthge said.

The GMOA Secretary said that there was a universal demand for an end to emergency purchases. Human immunoglobulin had also been procured through the emergency purchasing scheme, he added.

“The lawyers representing the local company that sold the vials told the court recently that the mastermind behind the racket was in the cabinet. There has been no attempt to find out if this claim is true. Apart from the suppliers, some officials who have accepted the stock of human immunoglobulin have been arrested, he said.

Director of the Medical Supplies Division Dr. Kapila Wickremenayake, Assistant Director Devashantha Soloman, Accountant (Supplies) Neran Dhananjaya and the Stock Controller of the Medical Supplies Division Sujith Kumara were arrested on Tuesday over the scam.

“There is no problem arresting anyone involved in a racket. But if these officials were arrested only because they were the ones who accepted the drugs, this would become a problem. Then those who hold positions at the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) will be afraid of making any decision. There is no mechanism in the MSD to check the quality of the drugs. What comes to the MSD is a product that has been accepted by a technical evaluation committee, and payments have been approved by the health secretary. We worry whether this is an attempt to frame lower level officials and misdirect the people,” he said.

Dr. Aluthge said that if the government was trying to close the case, the medical procurement system will become more corrupt in 2024. Shortages will worsen, and the public’s faith in the state health system will further erode, he said.