Women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde allegedly flouted rules while deciding on the purchase of 15,426 water filters-cum-purifiers at a cost of Rs 5,220 a unit, Rs 720 more than suggested by her department. Further, the contract was allotted without even assessing the need for anganwadis, it is alleged.
The contract, worth Rs 6.94 crore, was given to Aurangabad’s Everest Industries on February 13, a day after the commissioner of ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) moved the proposal for the purchase. A committee of experts had fixed prices from Rs 4,500 a unit onwards for various models of water purifiers. The ICDS commissioner sent a proposal for the basic model of Rs 4,500 a unit. However, Munde changed the proposal with instructions to buy the model worth Rs 5,220 each instead. Following this, the ICDS commissioner’s nod to the changed proposal was required, but was not taken, it is alleged.
The Opposition has said that the minister had no right to decide to buy the purifiers at a higher cost without the approval of the commissioner. The department also did not try to get a discounted price, despite buying in bulk.
“The revision in the rate by the minister should have been vetted by the department. Also, there was no assessment done of the requirement before buying the machines,” said Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant.
The women and child welfare department rubbished the allegations. “We decided to go for the upgraded water purifiers as they had storage tanks attached. The rates were fixed in the contract and there was no flouting of rules,” said Sanjay Kumar, principal secretary, women and child welfare department.
Interestingly, the department had replied, in a RTI query filed by an NCP leader, that no such meeting, in which the minister reportedly tweaked the proposal, took place in Mantralaya on February 12.