KOCHI: At a time when the state government has been taking measures to ensure transparency in the functioning of its departments, there’s whiff of a scam in the state-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation Ltd (KSBC).
For the past 12 years, KSBC has been engaging a private firm for supply and maintenance of thousands of electronic billing machines, in a deal that lacks transparency.
As per the corporation’s claim, it was on August 24, 2007, that private firm Lantron was selected to supply billing machines through a tender. However, KSBC continued to engage Lantron for the next 12 years without floating fresh tenders, not even for the annual maintenance contract for billing machines.
In reply to an RTI query, KSBC said it doesn’t have any record of the tender process through which Lantron was selected. Though it admitted Lantron has indeed been supplying billing machines since August 24, 2007, it failed to divulge complete details of the company and its owners.
A verification of Lantron’s records with Registrar of Companies (RoC) revealed though a company was incorporated as Lantron India Pvt Ltd with RoC, Ernakulam in 2013, it was struck off for not following rules under Companies Act. The RoC records show Aji Gopinathanair as Lantron MD and its registered address as TC 52/2238, Vellayani, Thiruvananthapuram. However, a copy of the latest bill given by Lantron to the KSBC for repairing a billing machine showed a different address – Adithya Apartment, opposite Income Tax office, Kowdiar PO, Thiruvananthapuram.
There are 270 beverages outlets in the state each having around four billing machines. On an average, an outlet has to spend nearly Rs 3,000 per month for the maintenance of billing machines.
KSBC officials believe the contract is why the corporation has not shifted to computerised billing system at its outlets. “Whenever we pitch for implementing the computerised billing system at retail outlets, the move is sabotaged,” said a senior official.
KSBC MD G Sparjan Kumar said he was unaware of the deal with the said company as it took place years back. He said he will look into it.
“Implementation of computerised billing system at outlets has been delayed for various reasons. We have apprised the state government of the need to implement it as soon as possible. By this year end, we will implement it,” he said.
Upon contacting Lantron, a person, who identified himself as Aji, said they did have a company registered in the name of Lantron India Pvt Ltd in 2013 but it was now defunct. “We had another firm called Lantron which had a deal with KSBC five years back. We now take up maintenance and supply of parts for the billing machines as per the corporation’s request,” he said.