Thiruvananthapuram: Former Health Minister KK Shailaja on Saturday dismissed allegations that she was complicit in the corruption involved in the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits during the COVID pandemic.
She said the unprecedented nature of the COVID calamity had prompted the State to seek the kits and other equipment on an urgent basis.
It, therefore, cost three times than what was the usual rate. Rs 1,500 instead of Rs 500.
The purchase of the PPE kits at that high cost had Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's approval as well, Shailaja said.
Our intention was to get quality products in the shortest time possible. We had a pandemic to deal with, the former minister added.
An order was placed for 50,000 kits, but by the time 15,000 were delivered, the price had fallen. The remaining order was purchased at the market value, Shailaja clarified.
On Friday, The Lok Ayukta has begun an inquiry against former Health Minister KK Shailaja and ten others in the alleged corruption involved in the purchase of PPE kits.
The development came after a complaint lodged by Congress leader Veena S Nair.
KK Shailaja, former Health Secretary Dr Rajan N Khobragade, former MD of Medical Services Corporation Balamurali, former general manager of Medical Services Corporation SR Dilipkumar, and seven others had been mentioned in the complaint.
All the eleven names mentioned in the complaint were either decision makers or directly responsible for the procurement of PPE kits and surgical equipment during the COVID pandemic.
The Medical Services Corporation is the entity responsible for the distribution of drugs and surgical instruments at affordable rates across Kerala.
Veena alleges corruption in the procurement of PPE kits by pointing out that they were purchased from private companies at a higher rate than the market value.
This, she says, likely led to a loss for the state government coffers.
She pointed out money was transferred to these private companies even before any deliveries were made.
Preliminary investigations have been completed in connection with the case and notices have already been sent to the officers involved, all except KK Shailaja.
On Friday, a notice was sent to Shailaja ordering her to appear before the inquiry panel on December 8, either in person or through a lawyer.
Despite the unprecedented nature of the Covid pandemic, Shailaja was widely lauded for her efforts to curb the COVID menace.
She was dubbed the moniker 'Coronaslayer' for the efficient way with which she laid down rules and guidelines, which were emulated across the country.