Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ambulance Scam: Forgery alleged in state’s 1,000-crore ambulance deal

Mumbai: A petition filed in the Bombay high court on Monday alleges that the contract for Maharashtra Emergency Medical Service (MEMS), touted as the world’s largest ambulance service, was bagged on the basis of forged documents. MEMS is expected to boast of 937 ambulances and will require an investment of Rs 1,000 crore over five years. The service was expected to make its debut in August.

The work order in the MEMS tender process, which began in September, 2011, was issued just two weeks ago to a consortium comprising Pune-based BVG India and London-based UK Specialist Ambulance Service Ltd (UKSAS). BVG, a leading cleaning solutions group, is the main financial arm of the consortium, while UKSAS is a technical partner.

COURT BATTLE OVER LIFE-SAVER BVG India and Londonbased UK Specialist Ambulance Service Ltd (UKSAS) bag deal for 937 ambulances in state
Work order given two weeks ago, inauguration expected in August

Disqualified bidderZiqitza Health Care Ltd moves Bombay high court, accuses UKSAS of forgery and submitting false papers
But additional chief secretary (health) holds all documents are genuine.

Petitioner didn’t attend state’s hearing on ambulance deal: Min
Mumbai:A private ambulance provider which had bid for the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Service(MEMS)tender has filed a petition in the Bombay HC raising questions about London-based UK Specialist Ambulance Service Ltd’s (UKSAS) eligibility documents. A consortium of Pune-based BVG India and UKSAS had won the bid.

Ziqitza Health Care Ltd, the private ambulance provider, submitted documents collected under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act from various UK National Health Service (NHS) trusts, which stated that they have never issued any certificate to UKSAS. The FOI Act is similar to India’s Right to Information Act.

UKSAS, as part of the MEMS tendering process, submitted a certificate of eligibility issued by South London & Maudsley NHS Trust. But in its FOI reply issued on April 15, South London & Maudsley Trust categorically denied having issued any such certificate to UKSAS. “The trust has not endorsed any activity or issued experience/qualification/eligibility certificates to these companies,” reads the trust’s statement.

Ziqitza’s petition says, “The FOI reply also shows that respondent No. 6 (UKSAS) has commenced the business of operating ambulances in a non-emergency situation for transportation of mentally disturbed patients with respondent No. 7 (South London & Maudsley Trust) only after March 2012, which is four months after the date for the submission of the bid.” The petitioners alleged that as UKSAS was not operating any ambulance during the tendering process, the consortium could not have secured a certificate from South London & Maudsley Trust to satisfy the eligibility criteria. Ziqitza’s lawyer Shaffi Mather said, “This fraud has come to light from the information we collected in the UK as the Maharashtra government had consistently refused to share information in this regard,even under the RTI.”

TOI called up BVG India’s Pune offices ever al times. An official at BVG India founder Hanmant Gaikwad’s office said he was abroad. A copy of the FOI reply was sent to this official’s email, but there has been no response. Calls to his mobile have gone unanswered.

When TOI contacted UKSAS, its operations director Colin Vanlintcameon the line and said this was the first time he had heard of the FOI reply. At his request, TOI emailed him a scanned copy of the FOI reply thrice on different days. When TOI contacted him a second time, his office said he was on annualleave.

South London & Maudsley Trust’s Mark Nelson, who handles FOI queries, reiterated to TOI that his trust hadn’t issued any certificate. “A query from India was brought to my attention. We are investigating the matter,” he said over the phone.

Incidentally, this is the third time that Ziqitza has moved court over the MEMS tendering. In June, 2012, it filed a petition in the apex court challenging its disqualification from the tendering process. The SC threw out the petition.In February 2013, it moved the Bombay high court asking that the health secretary be directed to hear a formal complaint about allegedly false documents being submitted by BVG India and UKSAS. The court directed the state government to address the issue. Additional chief secretary (public health) T C Benjamin held a hearing and said the documents were genuine.

When TOI contacted Maharashtra health minister Suresh Shetty, he said the additional chief secretary had looked into the issue closely. “Ziqitza was told about the (state’s) hearing, but its representatives failed to turn up,” added Shetty. Both Shetty and Benjamin said they were unaware of the new petition filed by Ziqitza.

A senior health official, who didn’t wish to be named, said Ziqitza had been delaying the process to setup the emergency medical service by raising the same issues repeatedly. “All these issues have been heard before. The state law department was roped in to study the documents. We feel all is in order,” the official said.

Ziqitza operates the 1298 service in Mumbai as well as the government-run 108 service in Rajasthan, Bihar, Odisha, Punjab and Kerala.

Maharashtra Medical Emergency Services

WINNING BIDDER | State chose consortium of Pune-based BVG India and London-based UK Specialist Ambulance Service Ltd


AMBULANCE TYPES | Around 700 would be advanced life support ambulances, each costing 32 lakh | Around 200 would be basic life support ambulances, each costing around 1.4 lakh  

TOTAL COST | Approximately 1,000 crore over 5 years FOR MUMBAI | 142 vehicles

HELPLINE | Service to be accessed by dialling 108. Call centre to be set up at Government Chest Hospital, Aundh, Pune

WORK ORDER | Given a couple of weeks ago to BVG India

INAUGURATION | Likely to be flagged off in August

USAGE | Ambulances to be used for medical emergencies following road accidents, natural calamities, epidemics, and situations related to pregnant women and newborns COURT

2012Ziqitza Health Care Ltd files a petition in the Supreme Court challenging its disqualification from the tender process. Court turns it down

FEB 2013Ziqitza files a petition in Bombay high court asking that the health secretary be directed to hear a formal complaint about submission of false documents by BVG India and UKSAS. Court directs state to hear petition and sort out matter. Additional chief secretary (health) in March holds that all documents are genuine

APR 29 2013Ziqitza files a fresh petition claiming forgery and submission of false documents by winning consortium. Ziqitza submits a Freedom of Information (UK, 2000) Act reply from an NHS Trust (South London & Maudsley NHS Trust) which states that it never issued a certificate of any sort to UKSAS.

 Maharashtra Medical Emergency Service would be the world’s biggest ambulance service (London fleet has 700 ambulances) India has 108 helplines in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Malathy Iyer TNN


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