ONGC sacks 4 staff on medical fraud charge

Vol 27, PW 7 (04 Apr 24) People & Policy

ONGC has terminated the employment of four employees in a medical fraud case worth Rs415,000 ($5000) at the Baroda-based Western Onshore Basin office.

On March 27 (2024), ONGC sacked an HR chief manager, a senior medical officer, a GM-ranked former medical in-charge who retired in 2023 (released with backdated effect) and a junior assistant who is the prime accused and whose confession led to the other terminations. Three of the four sacked employees belong to disadvantaged "scheduled caste or tribal" communities.

At least one of the officers plans to appeal to chairman AK Singh or take further action to challenge the decision. Some see the terminations as top management's determination to stamp out corruption.

Others feel the investigation was flawed, mainly because of doubts about ONGC's computer system security and the flow of financial transactions. In the last week of July 2022, ONGC officials detected the first fake medical bills through the online login ID of the junior assistant, leading to the formation of an eight-person inquiry panel and the junior assistant's suspension.

He is said to have confessed to creating bogus bills, sent to officials with the power to approve them. He is also accused of generating bills in the names of two retired employees and of later extracting the money from the retired employees, claiming he was refunding the money to ONGC.

During the inquiry, the accused named senior officials with the power to sign off on medical expenses for colluding with him. Former executive director Pradeep Sahariya led the inquiry, which submitted separate reports in the first and second weeks of October (2023).

As many as eight "management witnesses" were used by the prosecution, ranging from DGM to CGM rank from Baroda, Delhi and Dehradun. "At the time, the inquiry process seemed fair," says one fired employee.

"But their decision is shocking and ridiculous." One doctor was fired for prescribing medicine that might not have been right for the employee requesting it.

"Four other charges against that doctor could not be proved according to the inquiry officer himself," we hear.