Welfare scam: CSPO lost files related to bamboo sales, caused losses to exchequer

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Continuing the investigation at CSPO, mid-day found that members deliberately misplaced files related to rate contracts for the sale of bamboo to private paper-making firms

Officials at the Central Stores Purchase Organisation (CSPO) have been found to cause the state huge losses. mid-day, in its continued investigation, has found that members deliberately misplaced files related to the sale of bamboo by the state forest department last year.

mid-day report on the Rs 450-crore welfare scam
mid-day report on the Rs 450-crore welfare scam

The CSPO was to approve a rate contract (RC) for the sale of bamboo to private paper-making firms. But, the loss of files has resulted in a loss to the exchequer. The file (S-30/2011/326-part2) was forwarded by the principal secretary (forest) to CSPO in 2012.

He kept enquiring about it for the next few months, but to no avail. The lost file caused a delay in finalising the contract with the firm. The deal was signed six months later at a lower selling rate; this difference resulted in a loss.

“The file was lost by members of the CSPO committee, which caused financial losses to the government,” reads an internal probe report of the Industries department.

“The bamboo was meant to be sold as raw material to a firm for production of paper. But, the file related to its rate contract (RC) never came back,” Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary (forest) told this correspondent.

Charges against officers
mid-day had, on Monday, exposed the manipulations at CSPO, whose officials awarded contracts for the purchase of welfare goods meant for the poor worth Rs 451.88 crore to second-rate contractors on the basis of bogus documents obtained from fictitious foundries at Ahmednagar and Rajkot, and fake test reports from Mumbai laboratories, to get contracts between 2010 and 2013.

This had resulted in school-going girls receiving rickety, broken bicycles and poor women receiving rundown sewing machines. Children in schools in rural Maharashtra didn’t receive their school kits due to the scam.

Various arms of the government assured they are in the process of framing charges against officials and contractors responsible for the mess at CSPO. A report has been forwarded to the principal secretary (industries), and cabinet minister Narayan Rane, recommending action against the officials and contractors, senior officials said.

Officials say
Apoorva Chandra, principal secretary (industries), agreed that the system needs a major overhaul in terms of procurement and supply of welfare goods, which, at times, do not reach the poor in good quality. “We have framed charges and will seek approval of cabinet ministers in cases where officials may have retired.

In other cases, the department will give a final approval on the action taken. Having said that, the government systems for purchase of welfare goods need to change. One option is to make direct transfers of cash to the beneficiaries.”

“We are in the process of framing charges against officials and contractors, and will now forward the report to my seniors, including cabinet minister Narayan Rane,” said V B Latke, deputy secretary (industries), who is heading the probe.

Industries is not the only department probing the multi-crore scam; other agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the state home department, too, are looking into widespread irregularities in the tendering process of the store. “A probe will look at multiple aspects of the scam. At this point, we can’t say anything,” said Director General (ACB) Praveen Dixit.

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