Chikki scam fallout: Govt scraps 23-yr-old rate contract system, initiates wide-ranging probe

A day after the state decided to probe purchases made by successive Congress-NCP governments in the 15 years they were in power in Maharashtra, and by the current BJP dispensation in the past eight months, the government yesterday scrapped the rate contract system, based on which the transactions were made. An announcement to this effect was made in the state legislature by Industries Minister Subhash Desai.

While his ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde are battling charges of irregularities, the CM said the allegations against his government are false. Pic/PTIWhile his ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde are battling charges of irregularities, the CM said the allegations against his government are false. Pic/PTI

The state Cabinet took this decision late on Thursday night, he said, adding that the policy had not been revised in the past 23 years. The move comes a month after state ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde found themselves battling charges of irregularities the former in the alleged Rs 206-crore scam involving the procurement of chikki, among other things, and the latter in the planned purchase of fire extinguishers.

Under the rate contract system, the prices for various items are decided by the Central Purchase and Quality Assurance Organisation and the state Industries department issues a list for the state using the central list as a yardstick. These rates are then used in the tenders for procurement and the bids are selected accordingly.

Desai said the Central rates will not be applicable in the new system, but will only help in framing the new purchase policy. Public representatives and departmental heads will be asked to study a draft policy and recommend changes before it comes into force from October 2015.

Henceforth, all purchases involving amounts higher than R3 lakh will be done through e-tendering. Suppliers in the state will get first preference and the party which quotes the lowest rate will get the supply contract. However, if any firm from outside the state wins the bid, it will be asked to supply 50% of the total requirement and the other half will come from firms based in Maharashtra if they are ready to match the rate.

According to Desai, the purchases will be decentralised and won’t be controlled from Mantralaya. The government has already decided to verify the lowest rates quoted by bidders with the prevailing market rates for various items to ensure that quality material is supplied.

Inquiry
On Thursday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had told the Upper House that the decision to buy through rate contract system was taken by the previous government.

He said the allegations against his government were false and a special committee comprising the chief secretary and two other senior secretaries would probe the purchases done by his government and also by the Congress-NCP government between 1999 and 2014. “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion,” Fadnavis had said while ordering the inquiry.

State Women and Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Munde is accused of irregularities in purchases of materials like chikki, water filters, utensils and medicines worth Rs 206 crore. It is alleged that the purchases were done as per the rate contract system. Tawde is accused of committing irregularities in buying fire extinguishers for schools across the state.

Tawde said that he had stopped the process of purchase and initiated an inquiry after the finance department raised certain objections to his department’s proposal. He demanded a probe into cases in which the erstwhile government overlooked directives of the finance department in similar circumstances.

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