MUMBAI: Even as the Opposition stepped up its attack on BJP MP Pankaja Munde in the Rs 206 crore purchase scam, the tale took a twist when it came into light that the biggest beneficiary involved was linked to the Congress in the coastal district of Sindhudurg.
The Munde-headed Women and Children Development Department on February 13 had awarded a contract to Suryakanta Sahkari Mahila Sanstha (SSMS), registered at Vengurla in Sindhudurg, for Rs 80 crore to provide chikki (groundnut candy) to around 14,000 anganwadis in the State. Munde did not invite e-tenders as per the rules but selected the NGO on the basis of the rate contract system.
The NGO’s main consultant M K Gawde, who takes pride in announcing that he is an active Congress worker, argued that the government’s rule of floating tenders for an item worth more than Rs 3 lakh was not practical in the case of chikki. “We have to bear the transport cost too along with the production cost. We had tried to convince Radhika Rastogi (then head of purchase department) but she as adamant on following the rule. In this case, we had no alternative other than going by the rate contract system,” Gawde told Express.
He denied that SSMS had given sub contracts for manufacturing chikki. “We have our own manufacturing plant in Vengurla.” However, he admitted that there were several complaints about the chikki’s quality. “We sent our representatives to the places from where the complaints were received to rectify the mistakes. Our products are air-tight. They can last more than four months.”
The workbook contractor, Bhanudas Tekawade, admitted that he gave 20 per cent concession to the government while the rule stated that it should have been 25 per cent. “The government rate of the books is Rs 74. I provided them best quality books at a rate of Rs 54. I need to deliver the books to each anganwadi at my own cost. Of course, I will bat for profit,” he told Express. He, however, claimed that though the bill was Rs 5.2 crore, his company had received only Rs 50 lakh as partial payment.
In the case of water filters, the ICDS Commissioner had sent a proposal to purchase them at a Rs 4,500 per unit. Munde allowed the purchase at Rs 5,220. “She added the cost of a tap to the price of the filter. She took the decision in good faith,” an official in Munde’s ministry said.