Staff Writer@Blink

Bhubaneswar, June 9: Attacks from different quarters have now escalated against the state government for their alleged involvement in controversial “mask scam” and their dubious deals relating to the procurement of masks at large scale.

Editor of Satyapatha and Odisha Congress spokesperson Satya Prakash Nayak has put forth a number of documents to put the government under lens for their alleged mischievous deal of the government in procurement of 30 lakh masks.

Nayak yesterday night in his new revelation claimed that the Odisha government violated the Finance Ministry’s “Manual for Procurement” by giving large scale incentives despite procuring the masks from a supplier who sold it to the government at the highest possible price.

“The Finance Ministry has a manual for procurement which claims that the government cannot exceed the incentive beyond five percent. However in this case, first the government purchased the masks from taxpayers’ money at the highest possible price and then added 50 per cent incentive if the stock is delivered within one week,” he said.

According to Nayak, the government despite availability of competitive prices and 137 other Union government-certified suppliers chose a Tamil Nadu-based supplier which sold the masks at the highest possible rate.

“What happened to the negotiation power of the government? IAS office Hemant Sharma based on his negotiation and procurement expertise was given the task of leading the procurement panel. Sharma, his panel and the whole government failed to even negotiate for Re 1,” he said.

Nayak said that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs had included masks under Essential Commodities Act and fixed the ceiling price. “The Centre never told the state to buy it at Rs 16/piece. It said that the ‘retail price’ of masks should not be above Rs 16/piece. But the government bought the consignment from the Tamil Nadu-based firm at maximum retail price when they bought 30 lakh such units. So instead of “wholesale rate’, the government opted to use the use the taxpayers’ money to get it at retail price,”

Nayak said that there were several suppliers even from Tamil Nadu who were selling it to as low as Rs 3 per piece to Rs 12/piece but the government chose the supplier who provided it at the highest rate. “Even in the supplier’s website none of their masks cost Rs 16/piece,”

Nayak also claimed that the government repeatedly cancelled tenders for the process into the matter hinting at some conspiracy. The government is meanwhile also said to have shunned the transparent government procurement platform-“Government Market Place”-GeM (preferred and pushed by Union government).

“GeM has no human interference and very transparent platform for government procurements. If the government would have gone through that channel nobody ever could have raised any fingers at the government. In GeM you cannot have any under the table works but government evaded this transparent platform which had several government certified mask suppliers,” Nayak said.

Not only Nayak but the State BJP has raised their attack against the state government. BJP leader and Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha MP Aparajita Sarangi has also raised questions against the Naveen Patnaik government. She urged the government to come clean on the issue and not vouch for any state-specific firms for supplies.

Meanwhile the Nationalist Lawyers Forum has also filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Orissa High Court seeking an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

State Health Minister Naba Kishore Das has meanwhile been denying any wrong doing while BJD leader Subhash Singh has asked the opposition parties not to do politics in the fight against COVID 19 and block the procurement process.


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