Pre-empting an attack from the opposition parties during the monsoon session of the state legislature, which starts next Monday, the BJP government on Tuesday announced that all rate contract purchases made in the past 10 years will be probed. The opposition has been gunning for women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde and education minister Vinod Tawde over alleged financial irregularities in the contracts awarded by their ministries.
Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who announced the probe, said the five-member committee of officers, which is currently looking at flaws in the rate contract system, will go through the purchases made in the past decade and look for lapses and mistakes.
“They [the team of five IAS officers] will come out with a report in the next two months, following which chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will take a call on the course of action,” said Mungantiwar, adding the team will probe into how much money was allotted, spent, what purchases actually made and were ultimately used.
“All this data will be used to chart out the new purchases policy, which we are putting together for the state. There can be a new system of directly putting money into accounts of beneficiaries, in case we see that the purchases made for them did not reach or benefit them,” he said.
The cases that will be investigated include Munde’s alleged scam under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), in which 24 orders worth Rs. 206 crore were issued in one day and the manner in which contracts were allotted was questioned. Munde clarified that she had followed the system that already exists. Tawde was under fire over a proposal for purchase of fire extinguishers worth more than Rs190 crore. However, the proposal was withdrawn following questions raised by the finance department.
Giving examples of purchases made through the school education department for uniforms, bags, books, Mungantiwar said the alternative easy systems need to be worked out where students are paid or given credit vouchers and they buy on their own.
Congress, however, termed the move as a cover-up by the government, to save its ministers. Party spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “They are only trying to skirt the issue for the upcoming session, which will expose a huge corruption scam in the government. The BJP will have to face the truth and people someday, and face the music.”
The party also demanded a CBI probe into the allegations against Munde. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said a CBI probe should be conducted in the alleged Rs206 scam in purchases of chikki and other materials under ICDS.
Chavan said the women and child welfare department did not follow the due process while allotting 24 contracts to the firms supplying chikki and other goods for the anganwadis. He said a thorough inquiry of the contracts given for the purchases should be done and that he was not averse to the inquiry of the purchases done during his tenure as chief minister. Chavan also announced plans to move court, challenging the alleged bogus degrees of state ministers Tawde and Babanrao Lonikar.