BHUBANESWAR: In the midst of a raging controversy, the State Government has stripped Industry and MSME Secretary Hemant Sharma of his additional responsibilities with State-level purchase committee constituted to supervise COVID-19 related procurement of medical supplies and equipment in the State.
A General Administration and Public Grievance department order issued on June 1 stated that an earlier order allowing Sharma to assist Principal Secretary of Health and Family Welfare department in supervision of procurement of all essential pharmaceutical goods and availability of additional PPE and masks as well as critical care equipment stands rescinded.
The committee had courted controversy after 33 trucks loads of PPEs, sanitiser, masks and ventilators remained stranded for nearly a week after being refused acceptance citing delay in arrival. Though the State Government had to accept around 1.78 lakh PPE after it was highlighted in a section of media, two truckloads each of masks and sanitiser as well as a truckload ventilator were sent back.
Incidentally, the day Sharma was relieved from the additional responsibilities, the Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited accepted the protective gears from manufacturers. A Government spokesperson, however, said separating Sharma from procurement had nothing to do with the controversy.
"The procurement is complete. Moreover, since Health and Family Welfare department is now headed by an Additional Chief Secretary-ranked officer, there is no need of a Principal Secretary to supervise the committee related to procurement," he maintained.
Interestingly as the matter gathered steam, the Government on Friday rescinded the order that entrusted additional responsibilities to nine senior IAS officers for COVID-19 management. The officers included Surendra Kumar, Anu Garg, Vishal Kumar Dev, Dr Krishan Kumar, Aravind Agrawal, Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav, R Vineel Krishna, Bhupendra Singh Poonia and Rashmita Panda.
The Chief Secretary’s office, meanwhile patted all the officers for their work. "Officers assigned critical responsibilities like creation of Covid facilities, procurement of essential medical supplies, training of medical personnel, handling of returnees by rail and road, enforcement of quarantine etc have done great work and deserve appreciation," a tweet said.
Opposition seeks CBI probe in 'COVID-19 procurement scam'
BHUBANESWAR: The Congress on Friday demanded a high-level probe into the alleged procurement scam in COVID-19 management and said removal of an officer from the charge is not sufficient. "The State Government must conduct a judicial inquiry or hand over the case to the CBI," said senior Congress leader Ramchandra Khuntia here on Friday.
Referring to the claim of getting a blank cheque from the Government made by Industry Secretary Hemant Sharma for procurement of Covid-19 kits, in-charge of Congress COVID-19 control room Sudarsan Das alleged that scam will run into crores of rupees.
Masks were purchased at Rs 16 per piece from a company only two days after procurement of masks at Rs 9.90 per piece from another company. Besides, large-scale irregularities have come to the fore in purchase of PCR testing kits, he said. The BJP also criticised the Government over the alleged irregularities in procurement of the kits. Senior BJD leader Shashi Bhusan Behera said a probe will be conducted.