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CBI probes corruption in appointment of nursing staff at Safdarjung Hospital

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on October 19, 2019 Published on October 19, 2019

In a major loss of face to the Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting a preliminary inquiry into complaints of wrongdoing in the appointment of nurses at the hospital.

After the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) instructed the hospital to immediately fill up to 1,109 nursing posts in order to open the New Emergency Block, 400 nurses were appointed on contract at a salary of ₹37,500 for a period of three months. This was allegedly done in haste, without scrutinising or entering the marks of candidates, which had led to candidates with lower marks bagging jobs, while meritorious candidates were left high and dry.

According to documents accessed by BusinessLine, the medical superintendent issued a confidential order on December 5 last year to form a committee to check for data manipulation and errors in the selection process, and whether this had resulted in any undue favours to ineligible candidates.

Flawed processes

The committee noted that the staff had to enter the data of 1,000 applicants every day. They were given only 10 working days to feed in the data of close to 13,000 candidates. Bundles were randomly picked by multiple members of the staff and hard copies of data entered were furnished without affixing signatures, which reflected a lack of accountability. The committee noted that the PMO’s directive to operationalise the hospital had led to the parallel process to appoint nurses.

The committee noted that higher marks were deliberately given to candidates, and that multiple data entry operators, contractual staff, nursing and administration staff in the hospital were involved in the racket.

The applications of 13,278 nurses were scrutinised during the inquiry, and close to 3,000 candidates were found to be ineligible for the job. As many as 10,638 applications were then re-scrutinised and 1,772 errors for incorrect marking in the Bachelor of Science (Nursing) and Diploma, as well as work experience were found.

In more than 70 per cent of the cases, data was recorded based on the declaration of the candidates themselves, without cross examining individual mark sheets. Twenty per cent of B.Sc (Nursing) cases were not given marks for experience of up to one year. "There are several examples like that of Preeti (Registration no. 763), who was at position 132 initially, but later jumped to the first position after revision of the merit list," the report said. In 500 cases, experience certificates was fallacious, which had led to changes in candidates' scores. Re-evaluation of candidates based on their scores in the eligibility qualification (BSc/General Nursing and Midwifery) threw up 484 discrepancies.

It was also revealed that some candidates had tried to mislead the organisation with multiple mark sheets, including supplementary examination mark sheets. Candidates whose mark sheets were found to be either absent or incomplete were disqualified, the report said.

In some cases, candidates with higher qualifications were not given marks in line with their qualifications. For example, candidates with a Masters in Nursing, were denied the benefit of their higher qualifications. In 144 cases, discrepancies were found in both allocation of marks for academic as well as post qualification experience.

Checking of documents at the interview level was also not done in a systematic manner, which had led to 112 candidates being disqualified at this level.

While data entry was partly outsourced to one Sai Communication, the committee observed that there were no details on the staff co-opted for the purpose.

Little accountability

“None of the hard copies bear the names or signatures of those who have prepared it or the supervisors, this could have been noticed by the additional medical superintendent (Anita Jain) and corrective action could have been taken,” said the committee report.

The committee recommended that the selection process should not be off-line and submission of false information by candidates should automatically disqualify the candidate at the time of document verification and debar them from future recruitment in the institution.

After the offline appointment process riddled with irregularities failed, the hospital initiated an online process, which was also cancelled due to allegations of money being given for appointments, high level sources in the Ministry of Health told BusinessLine. Eventually, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, was entrusted the task of online appointment of nurses.

Published on October 19, 2019
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