Odisha Congress to move CVC, Lokayukta over ‘PPE scam’ amid Covid-19 pandemic
The Odisha unit of the Congress has said that it will move the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Lokayukta for a probe into alleged irregularities in the procurement of PPE kits to fight the Covid-19 pandemic in the state.
Demanding strong action against the officials involved in the “irregularities”, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik said while several other states procured N95 masks at prices between Rs 1.34 and Rs 8.47 per piece, Odisha procured 30 lakh masks from a Tamil Nadu-based company at Rs 16 per piece.
“While other states procured masks at Rs 8 per piece, the Biju Janata Dal government bought 30 lakh masks at a double price. Instead of Rs 2.40 crore, they paid Rs 4.80 crore. It is a scam by the BJD in the purchase of life saving medical supplies. An independent probe must be carried out to find out where the money has gone,” Patnaik said at a press conference.
“Apart from launching a massive protest and hitting the streets, our party will move the Central Vigilance Commission and the Lokayukta in connection with the scam and submit a collective memorandum from all districts to Odisha Governor on June 11,” he said.
The state Congress chief also alleged that the Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited had purchased an RT-PCR machine at three times the market price. RT-PCR machine which costs around Rs 4-5 lakh has been bought at Rs 12.84 lakh by the state government, he said.
“We are not demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the matter as the BJD enjoys a majority in the state. But we want him to clarify whether there have been irregularities in the procurement or not. We demand the resignation of the ministers and all those involved in the corruption,” said Patnaik.
In a separate move, Odisha Pradesh Youth Congress Committee leaders met Governor Ganeshi Lal demanding CBI probe against health and family welfare minister Naba Kishore Das and MSME Secretary Hemant Sharma alleging their involvement in ‘PPE kit procurement scam’. Odisha Suchana Adhikar Abhiyan, a forum of RTI activists, too lodged an FIR in a police station of Bhubaneswar against the MSME secretary alleging his involvement in the PPE kit procurement ‘scam’.
On Monday, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in Orissa High Court in connection with the gross irregularities in the purchase of personal protective equipment by the state government.
Last week Sharma was removed from the Covid-19 procurement committee following a controversy that erupted after over 20 truckloads of PPEs, sanitiser, masks and ventilators remained stranded in Bhubaneswar for weeks. The government accepted the consignments from three trucks while the others were turned away.
In April, Sharma had claimed that the chief minister allowed his officers to travel with blank cheques for purchase of PPEs and testing kits.
However, health and family welfare minister Naba Das said there were no irregularities and the state bought the PPEs as per central guidelines.
“The masks were purchased after the direction from the Centre on March 24. The state is proud of the selfless service of health workers and such insinuations would demoralize them,” he said.