Education minister Vinod Tawde has become the second minister in the Maharashtra government to be accused of irregularities in awarding contracts, with authorities seeking a probe into allegations that his department finalised a Rs 191-crore contract without mandatory e-tendering.
Last week, Tawde’s colleague, women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde was accused of involvement in a scam related to the award of contracts worth Rs 206 crore for purchasing items for state-run schools.
The back-to-back scandals were the first to hit the eight-month-old state government headed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde in a soup over snack 'scam'
Maharashtra’s finance department has sought a probe into allegations of irregularities in a Rs 191-crore contract awarded by the school education department without conducting compulsory e-tendering, which is required for any deal over Rs 3 lakh.
The contract for supplying fire extinguishers to 62,105 zilla parishad schools, cleared by Tawde, was put on hold after the finance department objected, media reports said on Tuesday.
Tawde denied the charges and told NDTV: "The finance department has raised objections, we are clarifying to them on the issue...I have not given a single rupee to any contractor."
"Not one paisa from the government exchequer has been misused," ANI quoted Tawde as saying.
On February 11, Tawde’s department issued a government resolution authorising the office of the education director (primary) to enter into a rate contract to supply fire extinguishers. Each fire extinguisher was to be bought for Rs 8,321 and each school was to be given three extinguishers.
“Official communications show that the orders were issued following Tawde’s directives dated January 6,” the finance department said in an official note.
The education department awarded the contract to Thane-based Reliable Fire Engineers on February 27 but the finance department’s approval was not taken before finalising the deal, media reports said.
The finance department’s note stated that by the time the deal was stopped, the contractor had raised a bill of Rs 6.20 crore for supplying 6,047 extinguishers. The note further stated the contract worth Rs 191 crore was finalised even though the department had just Rs 19 crore in budgeted funds for purchasing “miscellaneous items” for zilla parishad schools.