A petition in the Bombay High Court on Monday sought a probe by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into the Rs 206-crore procurement ‘scam’ related to Women and Child Development Department headed by Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde.
The ‘scam’ relates to purchases of food stuffs, dishes, mats and books for tribal students ordered by the department in alleged violation of rules.
The public interest litigation, filed by Hemant Patil, president of Pune-based political outfit ‘Desh Bachao Party’, also prayed that ACB be directed to probe the ‘scam’ and if, necessary, file an FIR against the minister concerned and government officers who might be involved in the purchase allegedly in violation of rules.
The PIL is likely to come up for hearing sometime next week, the petitioner’s lawyer R N Kachave said.
The petition alleged that Munde had received a written complaint from Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad about bad quality of ‘chikki’ (food stuff) provided to tribal students by government under Integrated Child Development Services programme. The complaint alleged that the ‘chikki’ was found contaminated with clay, it said.
The petition further alleged that the department had ordered purchases of some items such as chikki, mats, books and dishes at a cost of Rs 206 crores without inviting tenders. Furthermore, all the purchases were ordered in a hurried manner, on a single day, February 13, through 24 Government Resolutions — which was a record of sorts in the state administration.
The PIL alleged that as per rules, any purchase of items above Rs 3 lakhs has to be done through e-tendering.
“The government has also banned purchases through the rate contract system in which material is purchased after negotiations on the rates,” it said.
The petition also quoted Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar as saying that purchase of any item having a value of over Rs one lakh by the government has to be done by inviting tenders. In this case, no tenders were invited, the PIL alleged.
The PIL said that the ‘contaminated chikki’ was a classic case of how the minister had allegedly flouted the rules.
It also alleged that Central Purchase Office Commissioner Radhika Rastogi had denied permission in April 2013 to purchase chikki from a Sindhudurg-based NGO, ‘Suryakanta Sahakari Mahila Sanstha’.
Rastogi had ordered the department to float a tender as the purchase cost was Rs 37 crores, much more than the Rs 3 lakh ceiling for a tender. The minister gave the contract to the same NGO for supplying chikki at a cost of Rs 80 crores despite the NGO’s manufacturing plant not being known, the petition alleged.
“The hurriedness in which 24 GRs were issued on the same day to order the purchase of chikkis clearly indicates that the minister wanted to chose her favourite contractors,” the PIL further alleged.