BHUBANESWAR: TWO senior IAS officers - Industries Secretary Hemant Sharma and Managing Director of the Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited Yamini Sarangi - appeared before the Lokayukta in connection with the alleged multi-hundred crore PPE, mask and nebuliser purchase scam and submitted their written replies.
The officers had failed to respond to the notice by Lokayukta on August 11 to submit their replies following which the anti-corruption ombudsman had warned that it will proceed with the investigation of the case if they do not appear at the next hearing on September 14. The next date of hearing has been fixed on October 4.
Sharma, the former head of the State level purchase committee and Sarangi, however, refused to reveal anything about their submissions. “We can’t tell anything outside what was discussed before Lokayukta. We have high regards for the Authority. We are hopeful that Lokayukta will provide proper justice,” Sharma said.
The State Government on June 5 had removed Sharma from the supervision of procurement of PPE kits, masks, nebulisers and other necessary items for Covid-19 management following allegations of large scale corruption brought by the Congress and a social organisation Odisha Vikash Parishad (OVP).
The petitioner from Congress Sudarsan Das told mediapersons after the hearing that the State Government purchased triple-layer masks at Rs 16 per piece while other states like Delhi, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar and Gujarat procured the same item at prices varying between Rs 1.30 and Rs 7.50 per piece.
Das questioned the State Government’s stand that other states procured masks at higher prices compared to Odisha as masks and other items were not sufficiently available in March.
President of the OVP Sushant Padhi told mediapersons that when many local companies were available to supply masks, there was no justification to purchase 30 lakh masks from a private company based outside Odisha.