Under pressure from the Opposition on the issue of ministers making purchases without floating tenders, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday announced a high-level probe into all such purchases in the past 15 years.
With just a day left in the monsoon session of the Assembly, the Opposition stepped up pressure through day-long motions in both houses. The members levelled a series of allegations against ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde. They have been accused of financial irregularities by using the rate contract system, making purchases of Rs 206 crore and Rs 191 crore, respectively, without calling for fresh bids.
Attempting to turn the tables on the Opposition, Fadnavis said a probe will be conducted under chief secretary Swadhin Kshatriya into all purchases made by various departments in the past 15 years, including those made during the Congress-NCP rule.
However, this wasn’t before the CM hit the Opposition back for its allegations. Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde questioned how the two ministers could make such purchases despite the Fadnavis government issuing a circular in December that all purchases above Rs 3 lakh must be done through e-tendering.
“In 2013, the previous government had stated, while making e-tendering mandatory for purchases above Rs 10 lakh, existing rate contracts can continue. It was your government that allowed this arrangement,” said Fadnavis, pointing to the Opposition benches. He alleged that former industries minister Narayan Rane had issued a circular that all departments had to purchase nutritious food for children from Suryakanta, the company that was given the order for chikki worth Rs 90 crore by Munde.
Munde earlier said: “The Opposition is levelling such allegations only because I am young and a woman; they believe that I am not capable.”
In his defence, Tawde said he had not spent a rupee on fire extinguishers. “As soon as the finance department raised objections, I was the one to stay the decision,” he said.
The Opposition, however, was not convinced. “It is wrong of the CM to give a clean chit to his ministers without conducting an inquiry. We are demanding for an inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act,” said Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, the leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
Making a similar demand, Dhananjay Munde said: “The ministers must resign and an impartial inquiry must be conducted by a sitting high court judge.”