Rs 206-cr procurement scam: Amid calls for Pankaja Munde's resignation, govt to take action against suppliers

With reports emerging that the suppliers who were contracted by the Women and Child Welfare department did not have manufacturing facilities, the state government has decided to initiate action against them.

Opposition leaders say it is improper for Pankaja Munde to hold the post while she is mired in a scam
Pankaja Munde at the Mumbai International airport, early on Tuesday morning. Pic/ Bipin Kokate

It has been learnt that the firms which supplied stainless steel plates, water filters, and medical kits to the department either have their facilities closed or do not manufacture all the items supplied. The items are part of the orders adding up to R206 crore that Women and Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Munde is under the scanner for.

Sources told mid-day that certain firms, like Everest Company, which was supposed to provide water filters, does not have its own manufacturing plant and sourced the filters through sub-contracts. Munde has been accused of increasing the cost for procuring these filters even though a lower rate was approved.

She has also been accused of clearing 24 Government Resolutions (GRs) on the same day February 13 to facilitate the purchases, which she has said were essential because the grants issued by the Centre would have expired if the deals were not inked immediately.

Rs 206-cr procurement scam: Amid calls for Pankaja Munde's resignation, govt to take action against suppliersPankaja Munde at the Mumbai International airport, early on Tuesday morning. Pic/ Bipin Kokate

Sources said Prist Pharmaceuticals in Amravati also did not produce all the items it provided in a medical kit for anganwadis, but sourced the material it did not have in its production line from other pharmaceutical companies. An official said that a Nagpur-based company, Vaidya Industries, which supplied stainless steel plates, has a facility that resembles a warehouse more than a manufacturing unit.

Substandard
A probe has also been initiated into the alleged substandard quality of chikki (a sweet), which was supplied by Suryakanta Sahkari Mahila Sanstha for R80 crore. An inquiry will be conducted to verify whether two contractors, Sai Hightech Products and Nitiraj Engineers, have a facility to manufacture growth-monitoring machines used to weigh malnourished children, for which they were given contracts.

The purchase of workbooks is also under the scanner because the payment of Rs 5.6 crore was allegedly directly made in the name of the owner of the printing press rather than the company. Sources said this was done in violation of the guidelines.

A senior official in the Women and Child Welfare department said, however, that the companies which signed contracts as distributors and not as manufacturers would get relief in the investigations. He could not give details of which of the companies fell under the category of distributors.

‘CM has got report’
Women and Child Welfare department Principal Secretary Sanjay Kumar did not want to comment on the latest developments. He did, however, confirm that a report on the entire issue has been forwarded to the chief minister and chief secretary.

A highly placed source told mid-day that the report has absolved the minister and others of any wrongdoing. “The report specifically mentions that the purchase rates were approved by the state’s industry and the Centre’s general supplies departments,” he said.

Munde must step down: Congress
The Congress, meanwhile, stepped up its attack on Munde yesterday. Party spokesperson Sachin Sawant, who has filed a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau against the minister, said that he would submit evidence in the case to the bureau’s chief, Praveen Dixit, on Tuesday. “It is improper for Munde to hold office when she is mired in a scam. She should step down to ensure a fair probe,” he told mid-day.

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