The allegations of irregularities in the purchase of food items for children under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) may end up becoming an embarrassment for the Devendra Fadnavis-led government and minister Pankaja Munde.
Under the scheme, children attending anganwadis in the state are given either chikki or a nutrition bar. For the past five years, the average purchase price for chikki for the 17.35 lakh children in anganwadis has been about Rs17 crore a year. But the BJP government raised it to Rs75 crore by increasing the quantity and the purchase price.
Following the World Bank’s guidelines, the Central government had raised the grant given to states for ICDS by Re1 a child a year— an increase in allocation by Rs120 crore.
Following this, the women and child welfare department decided to increase the amount of chikki and distributed the remaining money (Rs42 crore) among anganwadis for other food items.
The micronutrient chikki was purchased at Rs285 a kg, at the total cost of Rs52 crore. Another food item, Rajgira chikki, was bought at Rs215 a kg, at the total cost of Rs23 crore.
To justify the hike, the department said the micronutrient chikki contained minerals and vitamins. Sources, however, said the actual market price was much less.
The department even received a letter from an NGO saying that the actual cost was Rs127 a kg.
In its defence, the department said the purchase was made under rate-contract—a rate card of various commodities to be purchased that is fixed
by the government— and hence no e-tendering was required.
However, a GR of December 2014 makes it compulsory to invite e-tenders for all a purchases, said Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant , who has lodged complaint with the ACB.
Further, the contract for supply of chikki was given to an organisation that did not have a manufacturing facility. “The firm was supplying the chikki from smaller traders from Mumbai and other parts of the state,” Sawant said.
The department on Thursday said the purchases were done according to the rules. “For the first time, we handed over Rs40 crore to the anganwadis for bananas and eggs. Some other items were purchased at higher prices, but they were of better quality,” said Sanjay Kumar, principal secretary, women and child welfare department.