Officials of the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) in Andhra Pradesh who are probing the multi-crore Employees State Insurance (ESI) scam, arrested two more accused in the case on Tuesday.
The accused have been identified as Srirama Murthy, the owner of a medical store in Vijayawada and Venugopal, who was working as a lab technician for an ESI dispensary in Guntur.
According to reports, investigation officials said that the two are suspected of colluding with the other accused to cause a loss to the state government's exchequer, by creating fake quotations during tenders and bagging purchase orders at inflated rates.
The duo were presented in front of the special ACB court hearing the case in Vijayawada and sent to judicial custody. With this, nine accused in the case have been arrested.
Meanwhile, the bail plea of the seven people including former Labour Minister T Atchannaidu, who were arrested earlier, was reportedly rejected by the court on technical grounds.
The ESI scheme is monitored and implemented by the Director of Insurance Medical Services (DIMS) in Andhra Pradesh. Employees earning a salary of less than Rs 21,000 per month in the industrial and service sectors contribute their share of 3.25% and 0.7% of their salary respectively for the ESI scheme.
According to the ACB, during the five years of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) rule (2014 to 2019) when Atchanaidu was Labour Minister, there were several irregularities in the procurement of medicines, surgical equipment, and furniture worth Rs 988.77 crore for ESI hospitals, ESI diagnostic centres and ESI dispensaries spread across the state.
In procurement of these alone, the accused are alleged to have violated the procedures and guidelines, causing a loss of Rs 155 crore to the state exchequer.
The ACB said that three then made DIMS purchases without constituting a drug procurement committee and without calling for open tenders.
They have been accused of fabricating quotations for the tenders and paying excess amounts without negotiating the rates. The total budget allocation for the purchase of drugs and medicines during the tenure of three directors was Rs 293.51 crore, while purchased drugs and medicines were worth Rs 698.36 crore, the official added.
The ACB further said some of the staff of the DIMS using their official positions established benami firms in the name of their family members and got purchase orders for the supply of medicines and drugs. Irregularities committed in assigning works of sewerage and biomedical waste disposal plants are under probe, officials added.
Earlier this week, the ACB had said that 12 more people were to be arrested, which included one official working in the state secretariat and private suppliers, and it has formed teams for the same.