In Bihar's Siwan district, seven ambulances - purchased last year during the country's peak Covid crisis allegedly at three times the price - remain unused at a parking lot. The "ambulance scam" was unearthed after reports showed each vehicle, costing Rs 7 lakh, was purchased for a whopping Rs 21.84 lakh. The purchase was also not made from the government's e-marketplace (GEM) which is mandatory for any item costing over Rs 5 lakh.
Of the seven, five ambulances were allegedly bought under the Chief Minister's regional development fund.
The price of the ambulances shot up after various upgradations such as ventilators, seat partition and other medical equipment. However, these modifications were purchased through an open tender at skyrocketing rates.
Siwan District Magistrate Amit Pandey has said that an investigation has been ordered in the case,
"With new facts in the public domain we will get the matter investigated," he said after reports of the alleged scam made headlines.
Videos from the district show the ambulances, spotless and embellished with the names of MLAs and MPs, stationed at a parking lot.
Former minister Vikram Kunwar has written to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar urging for an investigation in the matter and all other ambulance purchases made during the pandemic.
He also mentions the high pricing of the modifications in his letter.
Ventilators, costing Rs 60,000 at India Mart, an e-commerce company, were purchased for over Rs 3.41 lakhs, the minister writes. Medical equipment, costing Rs 31,000 was bought for over Rs 1.18 lakh. A suction machine that costs just Rs 8,500 was purchased for over Rs 33,000, Mr Kunwar writes in his letter.
A hefty Rs 1.24 lakh was spent on seat partitions in the ambulances, reports say.
Bihar saw a political uproar in the state last year due to lack of ambulances as the coronavirus crisis ravaged the country. Still, the fleet of ambulances have apparently not been used once - even during the more deadly second wave this year.
Last month a row erupted after Jan Adhikar Party chief Pappu Yadav questioned BJP MP Rajeev Pratap Rudy after a fleet of ambulances were found unused - covered with tarpaulin and parked - on premises belonging to the Lok Sabha member from Bihar's Saran.