Pune: PCMC to Recover Rs 3.29 Crore Paid to Unused Covid Centers

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Pimpri Chinchwad, 20th January 2024: The Municipal Commissioner of Pimpri Chinchwad, Shekhar Singh, has issued a directive to recover Rs 3.29 crore paid to Fortune’s Sparsh Healthcare Pvt Ltd Hospital for operating two Covid care centers during the 2020 pandemic. This decision overturns the earlier ruling by the former additional municipal commissioner.

The directive follows a public interest litigation filed by Sunil Kamble, a social activist from the city, in the Bombay High Court, alleging irregularities in the matter. The High Court had instructed the municipal commissioner to conduct an inquiry and make a suitable decision.

The investigation revealed deficiencies in the Covid centers at Hira Lawns and Rama Smruti Mangal Karyalaya, each with a capacity of 300 beds. Despite the lack of patients referred to these centers, the former additional municipal commissioner, Ajit Pawar, had sanctioned a payment of Rs3.29 crore to the hospital. Former MLA Laxman Jagtap had raised the issue in the assembly in 2021.

The municipal commissioner’s order, issued on Jan 2, highlighted that the additional municipal commissioner had ignored objections from the health department’s account officer and approved the bills without written approval from the municipal commissioner at that time. The former additional commissioner had also personally signed agreements for these two Covid centers, whereas agreements for other Covid hubs in the city were signed by the health officer.

Commissioner Singh stated that he made the decision based on the High Court’s directives, intimating that the due amount would be deducted from another bill related to a Covid facility at the auto cluster in the city. The High Court, in its order on January 4, directed the municipal corporation to pay the outstanding amount to the hospital after adjustments within six weeks.

Amol Holkunde, the hospital CEO, expressed concern over the rushed order, stating that the court had granted them the freedom to file a separate case to claim the disputed amount of Rs3.29 crore.

Sources indicate that the total amount due to the hospital for the three Covid hubs was Rs 5.93 crore, with Rs 80 lakh already deposited with PCMC. After deducting the disputed amount, PCMC is set to pay the hospital Rs 3.44 crore.

Petitioner Sunil Kamble demanded accountability for the retired additional municipal commissioner, Ajit Pawar, highlighting discrepancies in the payment process and the violation of rules regarding cooperative bank transactions.