- State Finance Department in 2012 issued order to pay for government orders through centralised digital payments.
- Odisha govt however recently boasted about giving government officials blank cheques for procurement.
- Finance department also issued orders to procure from GeM portal citing its low cost and authentic transparent nature.
- Orders were also issued to give written statement by the officials who opt to procure it beyond GeM to cite reasons for not taking the GeM route.
Bhubaneswar, June 11: The war of words among the political parties in the state seems to have escalated in the matter of alleged irregularities in the procurement of masks.
However the Odisha government existing guidelines and official circulars released in the past highly contradict the whole procurement procedure adopted by the government. Several of the methods adopted by the Odisha government under the leadership of IAS officer Hemant Sharma as the head of procurement committee seems to be controversial and dubious, documents suggest.
According to an official circular issued by the Department of Finance in 2012 all government procurement transactions should be done through electronic and digital means and the physical methods should be shunned. However as per Sharma, some officials were said to be carrying blank cheques of taxpayers’ money, a payment mode that was discouraged by the Finance Ministry close to eight years ago.
Another contradiction was related to the tenders and shunning of the Odisha government of the Government E-Market place (GeM), constituted by the Central government to weed out corruption and provide better prices for supplies to government agencies. Another notification issued by the Finance Department claimed that for all possible government procurement the government must use the GeM portal citing its lower rates and trusted government certified place to procure items for the government.
However, as per the details of documents available, the government chose a Tamil Nadu-based supplier by procuring items from them allegedly besides the GeM route. The Odisha government cancelled a GeM tender into this regard and some other open tenders too and ended by procuring the supplies from a Tamil Nadu-based firm.
However another clause of the Finance Department was that if a government officer thinks that a better price is available outside GeM portal or the commodity is not available on GeM, they can order it from outside by also give a written statement on the matter for the reasons for the same. However in the present case such written statement seems nowhere.
Political parties have now escalated their tirade against the ruling parties and demanded clear and specific replies from the government. Odisha Congress spokesperson Satya Prakash Nayak blamed the whole Empowered Group of Ministers and the bureaucrats involved in this alleged dubious procurement for sidelining norms and orders of Central government as well as state government.
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik moved to the Governor Ganeshi Lal and submitted his memorandum into this case. The party has now threatened to move to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the office of Lokayukta into the matter.
The Odisha BJP has also been attacking the government for its non-transparent mean of procurement. It also has asked the government to come out clean into the matter.
Rajya Sabha MP and BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra however today responded to the allegations citing them political. He furnished the rate at which different other states bought the masks and defended the stance of the government. He also said that earlier the availability of masks was not in abundance. He claimed that there was no wrongdoing into the matter.