Rakesh Kumar Sharma’s name has cropped up in a Rs 14 crore scam.
The store purchase committee lies at the heart of the administration of Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences. It is this committee that authorises all purchases above Rs 1 crore made by the institution.
The committee was reconstituted on July 11. It comprises seven members, a chairman and a member secretary. Multiple sources confirmed to Newslaundry that the member secretary is the “most important”.
“The chairman is only a signatory,” said a doctor. “All work is done by the member secretary.”
The incumbent member secretary is Rakesh Kumar Sharma. He was appointed by Dr Randeep Guleria, who retired as AIIMS director on September 24.
Sharma was given the key position despite having a known chequered past. He has faced many corruption allegations over the past few years. In December last year, Guleria himself accused Sharma of “embezzling Rs 14 crore”.
Sharma, who joined AIIMS as a pharmacist in the mid 1980s, wouldn’t speak to Newslaundry for this story. AIIMS spokesperson Aarti Vij and former director Guleria also did not respond to requests for comment.
Here’s a rundown of the allegations of corruption against Sharma.
The store purchase committee was reconstituted in July.
‘Embezzlement of funds’
On December 28 last year, Guleria wrote a confidential memorandum, of which Newslaundry has a copy, seeking an investigation into Sharma by a disciplinary authority as per rule 14 of the Central Civil Services. At that time, Sharma was a senior store officer at the Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at AIIMS.
The memo alleged that Sharma “has not given due diligence in supervision in procurement of General/Linen/Stationary items” at Rajendra Prasad Centre leading to “irregular payment and embezzlement of Government Funds of Rs 13,91,39,730”.
According to the findings of a “preliminary enquiry” headed by one Dr Sanjay Kumar Arya, the memorandum said, payments were being made for items that were never delivered to AIIMS. They “were not received in the Stores section physically”.
These “purchases” appeared in financial documents, amounting to Rs 5,62,65,822 in 2020-21 and Rs 8,27,73,908 in 2021-22. The sums “were found to be unreconciled and against spurious supply orders”, which contained signatures of officers including Sharma.
“The committee thus came to the conclusion that an amount of Rs 13,91,39,730 was paid to the firms without any supplies against spurious supply orders and inspection notes,” the memorandum said. “Such spurious claims could have been detected if due diligence were observed in regular periodical supervision of Stores. Failure of exercising his due diligence indicates lapse on part of Shri Rakesh Kumar.”
Guleria’s memo also accused Sharma of failing to “maintain devotion to duty” and acting “in a manner unbecoming of an Institute employee”.
History of ‘irregularities’
But Sharma’s tryst with controversy dates back several years. In 2008, according to a memorandum accessed by Newslaundry, AIIMS’s vigilance cell transferred Sharma from the hospital’s store section to Ghaziabad’s National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre “due to some administrative reasons”.
But the document, signed by then chief vigilance officer Shailesh Kumar, also added, “It has further been decided to disallow Shri Rakesh Sharma to be the part of any purchase or procurement committee.”
It’s unclear what Sharma had done. Devnath Shah, the current head of the hospital’s vigilance cell, refused to discuss the case.
Sharma’s name cropped up again in connection with “irregularities” that allegedly took place in 2014. At the time, he was a store officer at AIIMS’s computer facility. It is unclear how he got this position after his previous transfer.
These “irregularities” were detailed in an October 28, 2019 order issued by Guleria under the vigilance cell. The order said Sharma was “responsible for misconduct” during the floating of a particular tender by “manipulation of prequalification conditions to favour a particular firm”.
“Since being Stores Officer (Computer Facility), AIIMS, New Delhi he [Sharma] was involved in processing the case for floating the aforesaid tender and subsequently, preponing the date for submissions of bids”, Sharma was “thereby responsible for not following the laid down procedures and guidelines and leaving the scope of favouritism by diluting the prequalification criteria which is a yard stick…Such an act on his part is misconduct and unbecoming of an employee of the institute and in violation of Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964,” the order said.
A “representation” submitted by Sharma was found to be “unconvincing”, Guleria continued, and so “minor penalty of withholding of one increment for one year” was imposed upon him.
An officer who worked with Sharma told Newslaundry, on condition of anonymity, that Sharma “moved” the deadline to apply for tenders to “benefit an acquaintance”. Newslaundry could not verify these claims.
The officer added, “For irregularities like this, people even lose their jobs.”
It should be added that Sharma over three years made purchases on behalf of AIIMS from a company owned by his son, Deepak Kaushik. The company, RD Enterprises, operates out of Rishikesh.
In 2019, AIIMS purchased 100 computer chairs for Rs 3,40,000. In 2020, it purchased a single revolving chair worth Rs 19,600 and three sofas for a total of Rs 49,800. Four more revolving chairs were bought in January 2021.
Deepak Koushik refused to speak to Newslaundry to discuss these purchases.
The 2008 memo by AIIMS vigilance cell.
‘Sharma is not alone in this’
Yet, despite these controversies, Sharma continued to work at AIIMS. In March 2022, three months after Guleria alleged Sharma had “embezzled” Rs 14 crore, he was made the central public information officer, RTI, – a promotion, essentially – at the procurement, work and store division of AIIMS. His job is to provide information to applicants under the Right to Information Act.
An AIIMS doctor, who is upset with the promotion, said, “It’s a case of making out your will to your murderer. Will he provide correct information if anyone asks him about purchases done during his time? The answer is no.”
An administrative employee at the Rajendra Prasad Centre said, “Despite such serious allegations, he has been given new and important responsibilities. This clearly means Sharma is not alone in this. They work like a gang. Whenever someone is accused, an investigation committee is formed under one of their associates who saves them.”
He added that it was “impossible” that Sharma was unaware of the Rs 14 crore scam, which is currently being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Delhi police’s Economic Offences Wing.
“Junior officers were made the scapegoats,” he alleged.
This report was first published on Newslaundry Hindi. It was translated to English by Utkarsh Sharma.
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