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Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, August 27, 2013
The Jindal Commission on Monday concluded the task of recording the evidence of all three suspended officials in the book scam case, with the submission of suspended district education officer (DEO) Vinod Kumar, who admitted to having tendered the supply of library books to the Mansa firm in question.


The very tendering procedure had come under the scanner of a central team that visited the state to look into the matter as the funds used to pay for the books were the central grants under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The suspended DEO appeared before the commission on Monday and signed his statement, stating that education minister Sikander Singh Maluka had formed the three-member committee for purchases in the education department. He also explained the award of the tender to the Mansa-based firm, Friends Enterprise.

The education minister had significantly stated earlier that he had not formed the committee to make purchases but to monitor and keep the purchases in check.

The one-man Commission of Inquiry headed by retired district and sessions judge AN Jindal is yet to summon the minister and the principal secretary, school education, who had suspended the three officials after a separate departmental inquiry.

Vinod, along with other committee members, director public instructions (DPI) elementary education Pritpal Kaur and Punjab School Education Board finance officer Gurtej Singh, was suspended after the HT exposed the scam in which the Mansa firm was handpicked under the garb of a faulty tendering procedure that flouted all norms.

The said firm had got its certification changed form a pipes manufacturing company to a publishing firm from the excise and taxation department to come clean as a deserving firm for the tender to supply books.

The tender invitation had a major fault in the name of 'maximum discount' on the MRP mentioned on the books. However, the rates were decided after the selection of the said firm as the MRP on books was already escalated.

Another lacuna in the tendering was that the third firm applying for the award had offered "zero per cent" discount. There had to be at least three firms for the tendering procedure. Friends Enterprise had offered 15% and the second one mentioned 14%.

Gurtej Singh, whose suspension has been revoked, had stated in his evidence that he had no role to play in calling the tenders and that he was not even a signatory in the award of the tender to the Mansa firm.

Pritpal Kaur had also recorded her evidence before the Jindal panel two weeks ago, stating that she was part of the purchase committee.

The HT had run a series on the scam that how the three-member committee had faltered while inviting the tenders for the library books as well as the science lab kits, and on the misuse of the central grants under the SSA in May 2012.