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Bungling at Punjabi University: Firefighting equipment bought at inflated rates from fake firm

Despite having budget allocation of Rs 2.5 lakh each for the three financial years covered, the university’s firefighting wing purchased extinguishers on three occasions — at Rs 23.67 lakh, Rs 27.3 lakh and Rs 28.65 lakh.

punjab Updated: Jan 25, 2018 11:19 IST
Navrajdeep Singh
Navrajdeep Singh
Hindustan Times, Patiala
Punjabi University,Patiala,Bungling at Punjab i University
(Representative Image)

At a time when Punjabi University struggled to pay salaries, a purported scam in the purchase of fire extinguishers at Rs 58.4 lakh and smoke-detection alarm systems at Rs 21.4 lakh over three years has come to light.Here’s an example: A 4-kg fire extinguisher was bought at Rs 8,229, though the Punjab common schedule of rates says it’s available for Rs 2,415 apiece.

An internal inquiry report on the April 2014-October 2016 period says the purchase of extinguishers was made from a “ghost” company, which did not exist on the groundeven as it listed a local address of Patiala.

The inquiry was ordered on a complaint by Pushpinder Singh Gill, a senior professor, by the then officiating vice-chancellor Anurag Verma. A two-member committee, including senior professors Sukhwinder Singh and Amita Kaushal, has now raised serious questions in the report, accessed by HT.

The university purchased at least 550 fire extinguishers in the period for different departments and auditoriums.Despite having budget allocation of Rs 2.5 lakh each for the three financial years covered, the university’s firefighting wing, headed by junior engineer Sanjeev Kumar, purchased extinguishers on three occasions — at Rs 23.67 lakh, Rs 27.3 lakh and Rs 28.65 lakh.

“The purchase committee completely ignored Punjab common schedule of rates, consequently dented the fiscal condition of the university at a times when the institute was unable to give salaries and pensions to its employees,” the report said, adding that bills were cleared without cross-checking or auditing.

“The university failed to follow the process of e-tendering (online process) while making purchase of Rs 58.4 lakh, despite clear instructions of state government to follow the procedure in case of purchase over Rs 2 lakh,” said the report.

As for the smoke-detector systems for Rs 21.4 lakh, the committee said these were bought “unnecessarily”, as these are lying defunct at the place where installed, including the science auditorium and senate hall.

The report mentioned that “distorted” purchase committees were formed on 13 occasions for the extinguishers. The members of the purchase committee included the firefighting in-charge, finance officer and representative of the registrar’s office.

The genesis of it

The system was “bogus” as quotations were invited from firms that were not found when the probe panel members visited their given addresses, according to the report.

All purchases were made from a local firm named Genesis Engineers, which is not an authorised dealer of extinguishers and had labelled itself as a “business associate” when contacted on the phone numbers available on the quotation and bill sheets, the report mentioned.

Registrar Manjit Singh Nijjar, when contacted, said, “My office has submitted the sealed inquiry report to vice-chancellor office for further action.”

It may be mentioned here that at the last syndicate meeting on December 23, V-C BS Ghuman ordered to set up a two-member committee, comprising a retired civil servant and a retired judicial officer, to decide the course of action on such reports submitted with his office.

First Published: Jan 25, 2018 09:50 IST