While Yash Birla is being portrayed as mourning over the loss of his private retreat near Kedarnath, there are thousands of small investors including senior citizens, doing the same for investing in his group companies in either stocks or FDs. After all, what can you expect from a head honcho known more for his lifestyle than business moves
Industrialist and Page3 regular Yash Birla is sad over the loss of his private retreat near Kedarnath, according to a Mumbai Mirror report, although the report tries to spin a story of how his heart is bleeding for those who lost their lives and property. However, both Mr Birla and the Yash Birla Group companies are silent about returning money worth about Rs100 crore, invested as fixed deposits (FDs), to small investors.
What is surprising is that while the devastation of Mr Birla’s private property and his bleeding heart have received front page ‘sympathetic’ coverage, there is not a single word about the sufferings of his investors, including several senior citizens, in other media except Moneylife. (Read: Yash Birla Group companies in deep trouble?)
As of March 2012, Yash Birla group companies owe Rs97.25 crore to small investors invested as fixed deposit. Birla Power Solutions owes the highest, Rs57.92 crore while Zenith Birla (India) owes Rs33.19 crore to FD holders. Birla Cotsyn (India) and Shloka Infotech have collected FDs worth Rs5.67 crore and Rs52.84 lakh from investors as of March 2012. Yash Birla group companies have not yet published reports for end-March 2013.
The report in Mumbai Mirror quoted Mr Birla as saying, “the house, named Ashok Vatika after the garden in the Ramayana, was a place of peace and meditation. It is now flattened and there is just barren land left. But I will rebuild it as soon as I can.”
The report further says Mr Birla is “a fitness enthusiast, partygoer, art collector, and trekker is intensely interested in religious and spiritual matters.”
A simple search on Google shows Mr Birla, a corporate honcho, is happier in the company of Bollywood stars than India Inc. He is more known for his lifestyle than business decisions or corporate moves. This is in contrast with other members from the Birla clan like Kumar Mangalam Birla, who is more in the news for his business moves and not for attending parties.
Yash Birla is one of the regulars on the Page3 of newspapers along with his wife Avanti. This may have helped him to get prominent coverage about the devastation of his private retreat in the media. The report tries to paint Mr Birla as a victim of the tragedy.
According to the report, the retreat called as Ashok Vatika was constructed four years ago as an extension of a dharmasala set up by Sunanda, mother of Yash Birla. In 1990 his father Ashok Vardhan, mother Sunanda and sister Sujata died in a plane crash.
Even considering the loss of his private retreat, there is however, not a single word about the huge debt he or his companies have. The Yash Birla Group of companies has been struggling, if the share price is anything to go by. Out of the eight companies, all but one gave negative returns since 1 March 2013.
Moneylife Foundation has been receiving complaints from its members that they are not receiving their fixed deposit maturity amounts from two Yash Birla Group companies namely Zenith Birla (India) and Birla Power Solutions. Birla Power had problems in paying tax dues as well.
Colaba resident Nandini Suchde has filed a first information report (FIR) for cheating to the tune of Rs2 crore against Mr Birla, his wife Avanti, and employees of Birla Power Solutions like PB Murthy, Anant Vardhan Pathak, Ashish Mahendrakar and Tushar Dey, says a report from Mid-Day.
According to the report, Ms Suchde claims that in the last three years, she invested nearly Rs5 crore in Birla Power Solutions, a Yash Birla Group entity, on an assurance of 2% interest per month.
What is surprising in this news report are the claims made in the statement from Yash Birla group advisor OP Jain. As per the Mr Jain, the investor (Ms Suchde) was issued a post-dated cheque drawn on Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) in February 2012 and it was required to be banked in March 2013. However, after receiving instructions on 31 October 2012 from the group's lead lender State Bank of India (SBI), its bank account with IOB was closed. “Once the IOB account was closed, replacement cheques from SBI were issued to complainant also. However the IOB cheques were not returned back to the company by the complainant and the same were misused to justify a false case. The company is legally dealing with the matter and is taking all necessary measures required,” Mr Jain was quoted as saying in the report.
According to a report in Business Standard, banks were likely to recall their loans from Birla Surya, a Yash Birla group company, which has defaulted on debt payment of about Rs1,000 crore. In April 2013, one of the lenders, United Bank of India had issued a public notice to the company for recovery of Rs70 crore. Birla Surya raised Rs1,000 crore from 11 lenders as capital in the first phase for setting up an integrated unit for fabrication of multi-crystalline silicon wafers and manufacturing of solar photovoltaic (SPV) cells in Maharashtra. The project was facing delays as the financial closure was not complete, with a major portion of the equity not tied-up. The project was also yet to receive the Pollution Control Board certificate, the report says.
In short, while the media is mourning over loss of his private property, there are hundreds of investors who are doing the same for investing in Yash Birla group of companies, either through stock market or as fixed deposits.
Moneylife sent an email to the Yash Birla group companies for their responses. Till the time of writing this story, we have not received any answers from them. We will incorporate their answers as and when we receive it.
The CIC said it was necessary for the principal employer to access information regarding the compliance by the contractors or other workers working on its site. This is the 121st in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) in the Department of Space (DS) at Bengaluru-based Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to access the information regarding the provident fund (PF) status of sub-contractors and the sub-sub-contractors workers of Premier Explosives and provide it to the appellant.
While giving this judgement on 26 August 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, “...all public authorities have special duty to ensure that laws are adhered to by their contractors and sub-contractors. The information regarding the (PF) facilities being given to the sub-contractors is certainly information which can be accessed by the public authority as per the requirement of the law.”
Nellore resident Notam Mohan, on 5 May 2010, sought information regarding works or services carried out by the sub-contractors, sub-sub-contractors of Premier Explosives from the PIO of DS at the ISRO, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
In his reply, the PIO stated, information sought (by Mohan) was not held by the office and the same does not come under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005. Further, the PIO provided a list of sub-contractors and subsequently asked Mohan to contact Premier Explosives for details of works and services provided by the contractors.
Not satisfied with the reply, Mohan then filed his first appeal stating that he believes that the PIO's claim of Section 2(f) and the company being not under the purview of RTI Act was not reasonable. There was no mention of any order passed by the First Appellate Authority (FAA).
Mohan then approached the Commission. In his second appeal, he maintained that his allegations of having received only part, misleading and false information.
Subsequently, as per the suggestion from the PIO, on 20 June 2011, Mohan sought information from Premier Explosives. However, the company replied saying that RTI Act was not applicable to Premier Explosives.
During the hearing through video conferencing before Mr Gandhi, Mohan reiterated his demand for information about the sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors of Premier Explosives who are carrying out the work at the site of the public authority (ISRO).
The PIO stated that the DS does not keep information about the sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors and this was also not required as per law.
Mohan contended that as far as payment of provident fund (PF) is concerned the public authority is responsible for ensuring that PF is paid to all the workers working in the premises of the public authority and as a principal employer, it is the responsibility of the public authority to monitor this.
The PIO stated that since the department does not hold the information, he cannot be asked to provide it as per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.
Section 2(f) of the RTI Act defines,
“information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force”.
Mr Gandhi said, “It is necessary that the principal employer must access information regarding the compliance by the contractors or other workers working on the site. The Commission would here like to point out that all public authorities have special duty to ensure that laws are adhered to by their contractors and sub-contractors. The information regarding the PF facilities being given to the sub-contractors is certainly information which can be accessed by the public authority as per the requirement of the law.”
While allowing the appeal, the Commission then directed the PIO to access the information regarding the PF status of the sub-contractors and the sub-sub-contractors workers and provide it to Mohan before 20 September 2011.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2010/001353/SG/14305
Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2010/001353/SG
Appellant : Notam Mohan
Nellore, Andhra Pradesh
Respondent : S Satish
PIO & Director
ISRO-Department of Space
New Bel Road, Bangalore
Massage therapists, athletic trainers, interpreters and others who aren't allowed to write prescriptions apparently issued at least 417,000 under Medicare
Hundreds of thousands of times each year, Medicare pays for prescriptions purportedly written by massage therapists, athletic trainers, interpreters and others who aren’t allowed to prescribe drugs, according to a new federal report.
The study released today by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, identified more than 417,000 such prescriptions paid for by Medicare’s prescription drug program in 2009. The tally included initial prescriptions and refills dispensed by pharmacies.
The inspector general found nearly 30,000 prescriptions for painkillers and other easily abused drugs that appeared to be prescribed by individuals who had no authority to do so. Such prescribing could “endanger patients” and “may also contribute to the prescription drug abuse problem in our nation,” the report said.
The cost of all the questionably prescribed drugs came to $31.6 million, according to the study. Although just a small fraction of total drug spending in the program, known as Part D, it raises questions about how closely Medicare tracks the validity of prescriptions or investigates those that appear suspicious.
“In a prescription drug program like Part D, $31 or $32 million may not sound like a lot, but every little bit adds up,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “We don’t have the money in Medicare to be wasting for this area.”
Carper’s panel has scheduled a hearing this afternoon on prescription abuses in the program, which cost the government $62 billion last year.
The report is the second in days in which the inspector general faulted Medicare for its lax oversight of the program. On Thursday, the IG said it had identified more than 700 doctors with highly questionable and potentially dangerous prescribing patterns and called on Medicare to do more to investigate them.
It was not clear from the new report whether the drugs were actually prescribed by the massage therapists and others or if a pharmacy had mistakenly attributed drugs to them that were legitimately prescribed by others. Another possible explanation is that the prescriptions were fraudulent.
The inspector general identified prescribers and their specialties using a federal database that includes unique identification numbers, addresses and practice information reported by providers, including their primary specialties.
Analysts tried to exclude those who may have had authority to prescribe drugs despite appearances. For example, someone who identified himself or herself primarily as a dietician also may be a licensed physician.
In its response to the study, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said some of the examples cited by the report may be due to weaknesses in the federal database relied upon by the inspector general. CMS said it is working to shore up the database, but noted it relies on health professionals to keep their information up-to-date.
Even so, the agency said it would ask its fraud contractor to examine the issue and it would investigate the examples found by the inspector general.
“We have already launched several efforts to address these vulnerabilities, such as an intervention program in an area of high drug abuse and better data analyses to detect patterns of fraud and abuse,” an agency spokesman said in an email to ProPublica. “We agree with the OIG recommendations and are evaluating next steps to continue improving our oversight of Part D.”
The inspector general’s office said its analysts did not contact providers to ask if they had actually prescribed the drugs.
The report highlights, but doesn’t name, a Florida dietician as having ordered about 2,600 prescriptions for 165 patients.
ProPublica used Medicare data it had previously obtained to identify a Florida dietician with a similar tally in 2009, the same year studied by the inspector general. Rocio Garcia, a dietician at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, said she’s never prescribed a drug: “I can’t. I’m not a doctor.”
“I don’t know what to make of this,” Garcia said. “How could they link my name to [the prescriptions] if I’m not a doctor?”
To make sure that payments are accurate, the inspector general said Medicare should require the private insurers that administer Part D to verify that a provider has authority to prescribe drugs before paying for them.