For nine months, the Maharashtra government has been sitting on a report from the fourth state finance commission which could have perhaps saved it some blushes with regard to the alleged tendering irregularities by ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde.
Ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde have been mired in controversy following accusations of not following tender norms. File pics
Both ministers were allegedly involved in flouting tender norms and rate contract guidelines of the state government, which is a violation frequently seen in state departments, according to the report, which has not yet been released by the government. A copy of the report is with mid-day.
The 12 most important findings of the commission’s report, submitted in November last year, soon after the BJP-led government came to power, had highlighted glaring lacunae in the existing tendering procedures in place in state departments.
Some of the glaring findings include regular violations of the rate contract norms, absence of a uniform policy in accepting and awarding tenders, handing over of contracts to the same bidders beyond set limits, and contracts being awarded without proper competition and above estimates.
With the submission of the report of the fourth finance commission to the state finance department and the state government, the tenure of the commission headed by its chairman, JP Dange, ended. The government has, since, sat on the report without bothering to appoint the fifth state finance commission or even accepting the findings.
Senior state officials, who were part of the fourth finance commission, said setting its house in order financially does not seem to be this government’s priority. “This has clearly not been their (the BJP-led government’s) priority since they came to power in October 2014.
Other states, such as Andhra Pradesh, have already appointed a fifth finance commission. They should have taken this report seriously and made suitable changes to correct the anomalies, if any, and could have probably prevented the recent tendering controversies,” said a senior state official.
Even in case of the 113 recommendations in the third finance commission’s report, the then government had had accepted and implemented only 50.
Other recommendations and findings of the outgoing commission revealed how expenditures, in many cases, were booked even though department cashbooks were running in the red.
It pointed out how there was no proper oversight of bank accounts, that frequent changes were being made in projects after approvals were given, investments were being made by departments at a very low rate of interest, no control over revenue collection, and how new works were being undertaken without finishing earlier works.
“We have done our job and it is up to the government to constitute the commission or accept recommendations in toto or partially. You must ask the chief secretary,” said J P Dange.
The state Education Minister Vinod Tawde was recently accused of irregularities in connection with awarding of a R191-crore contract without inviting tenders, a charge denied by him. The contract, cleared by Tawde, was put on hold after the finance department objected to the department entering into a rate contract for supply of 62,105 fire extinguishers for Zilla Parishad schools across the state.
The allegations against Tawde came within days of Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde facing similar accusations in awarding contracts for various purchases worth Rs 206 crore on a single day in February this year without following the mandatory e-tendering process. It was alleged that Munde cleared overcharged purchase orders without inviting tenders.
The Big 12
The major findings of the audit are as follows:
>> There is no uniform policy regarding acceptance of tenders and awarding of contracts. Many times, contracts are awarded over and above estimates or without proper competition.
>> Government rate contracts are not followed.
>> Repeat orders are given beyond limits.
>> Expenditure booked in cashbook against minus balance.
>> No proper control on bank accounts.
>> Excessive budget provisions and provisions for spillover expenditure.
>> New works are undertaken without finishing earlier projects.
>> Bank reconciliation is not done regularly.
>> Entering into works contract without acquisition of land for the project.
>> No proper control over revenue collection.
>> Changes are made in detail project report after approval.
>> Investments are made at lower interest rates.