Monday, July 27, 2015

This Scam Has a History,Maharashtra Chikki Scam Part -1

After firm denials of any malpractices in purchases contracts worth Rs 206 crore in a single day Pankaja Munde has now partly admitted her misdeeds. While doing so she also admitted that a company that provided chikki and khichadi of substandard quality in past was again given a contract. In her partial confession she cleverly has tried to put curtain on bigger wrongs. Not a single procurement of 206 crores she has done in February 2015 is free from scam.

Photo courtesy NDTV.com
It seems that this business of siphoning public money was going on in WCD since last many years. They wait for money to be allotted under integrated child Development Scheme ( ICDS ) and then distribute money amongst themselves. To do that they ignored, broke all procurement rules and guidelines. They arbitrarily made rate contracts; did rate fixation gave extension to it. And as all the ministers and senior officials were equally party to it no complaint helped break this racket.

As far as purchases of chikki and ayurvedic biscuits are concerned it also amounts to contempt of Supreme Court orders in 2004 and 2006. Supreme court had banned private contractors for supply of nutrition and directed use of village communities, self help groups and mahila mandals. On 7th of October, 2004 Supreme court ordered that  the contractors shall not be used for supply of nutrition in Anganwadis and preferably Integrated child development scheme (ICDS) funds shall be spent by making use of village communities, self-help groups and Mahila Mandals for buying of grains and preparation of meals.

On 13th of December, 2006  Chief Secretaries of all State Governments/UTs were directed to submit affidavits giving details of the steps  taken with regard to the order of supreme Court of October 7th, 2004 .  After that all the States and Union Territories were directed to provide supplementary nutrition in the form of a morning snack and a hot cooked meal to the children in the age group of 3 to 6 years.
Photo Courtesy Mid Day

But government of Maharashtra instead of hot cooked food provided chikki  and biscuits as a supplementary nutrition awarded work to “ Mahila Sanstha’s”  instead of mahila mandals or self help groups gave it Mahila sanstha or mahila institutions

Principal adviser to the commission that Supreme court of India had appointed to monitor the implementation of the food and work related schemes in the country (Anne - 1 ) had pointed out that Following the Supreme Court orders of 2004, the Government of Maharashtra attempted a system of decentralized supply through women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) . To ensure that big contractors did not come in, they passed a Government Resolution that no single SHG should supply more than five anganwadis. (Anne 2  )

While this system was beginning to work, the Government of Maharashtra in 2009; once again introduced a new system through which it allowed backdoor entry of big private contractors with only commercial interests. Then GR in that regard was issued in 2011 ( Anne -3)

Meanwhile They cleverly used word  ‘Mahila sansthas’/ ‘woman’s institutions’in tender process . Mahila sansthas’/ ‘woman’s institutions’ includes not just SHGs/Mahila Mandals but any entity that has women in it, irrespective of size and turnover. By including Mahila Sansthas  the government of Maharashtra opened the door for private companies and contractors. And the contract was awarded to three mahila sansthas

The said report also observed following irregularities , in contract given to these santhas

• The contracts for supply of THR ( Take home ration) under supplementary nutrition project ( SNP)  has been given to Mahila Mandals which are further sub-contracting the responsibility of production of THR to private units. This is in violation of the spirit of the Supreme Court order that production and distribution should be decentralized and private contractors kept out

• The private units that have been leased by the Mahila Mandals for production of THR are owned by family members of the members of the Mahila Mandal who have the controlling authority over all organizational and financial matters in relation to the said lease agreement.

• In spite of many complaints regarding the quality of THR, there has not been any serious investigation or suspension of contracts. Lab reports on quality submitted by the Mahila Mandals are suspicious as all three mahila mandals approach the same lab and when the quality is tested in a government lab through picking a random sample, the THR failed to meet the nutritional norms. Further, even an independent checking by investigation bureau of the newspaper, Daily News and Analysis, Mumbai through a private lab showed that the THR being supplied does not meet nutritional norms.

• Two of the units (Paras Foods and Indo Allied Protein Foods) that have been leased by the Mahila Mandals for supply of THR are already under scrutiny following an FIR and Charge sheet by the CBI on charges of corruption in supply of food for the Tribal Department.

• Many of the transactions by the Mahila Mandals through the sub-committees have been done without informing and taking consent of the Co-operative Societies Department, as required by law.

• Although the ( Expression of interest ) EOI was invited for each district separately, the entire responsibility has been given to only three mahila mandals who are producing the THR in a total of less than ten units for the entire State, out of which one unit is based out of the State in Rajasthan.

Contract awarded to three mahila sansthas  were front originations of private contractors.(Anne -4) The report also throws light on names of private contractors. Interestingly according to media reports most of these contractors were near and Dear ones of Munde family. (Anne -5  ).That may the reason suryakanta is now blaming gujrati marwadi ( Anne – 6)

Before going to actual procure procere we must see what is Rate Contract and Rate Fixation

A Rate Contract  is an agreement between the purchaser and the supplier for supply of specified goods at Specified price and terms & conditions  during the period covered by The Rate Contract (Normally it is always One year) . No quantity is Mentioned nor is any minimum drawal Guaranteed in the Rate Contract. The Rate Contract is in the nature of a standing offer From the supplier firm. But there is always limit on maximum purchase on Rate Contract

All government purchases in Maharashtra above Rs 3 lakh are mandated to be made after inviting tenders. This provision is there since 1993 . earlier purchase worth Rs 500/- at a time and Rs 20000/-  of as ingle item in a year was  allowed on rate contract  . But above that, tender process was mandatory. Gradually this limit and provision was increased to 3 lakh till December 2014. (Anne – 7)

Rate fixation is only meant for small orders & reservation is given for the certain items produced by women’s groups, societies, organizations of ex servicemen, blind/handicapped persons etc. Nagpur bench of Bombay high  court declared rate fixation illegal (2545/2012).Accordingly on 27 June 2013  in a meeting held chairmanship of chief secretary it was decided that as HC order henceforth Rate fixation will not be done. Attachment.(Anne - 8).

Earlier there were two major categories of children 6 months to 2 Years and 2 – 6 years. As per guidelines for children between 6 months to 2 years supplementary nutrition was to be provided in form of paste. It was also condition that food provided to children below 3 years  should be light to eat and digest. Recipe for such food had been also given n this GR ( Anne - 9). There was no chikki, biscuits, eternal feed powder or protein powder in this chart.

Items like chikki , biscuits were never in this scheme but were procured for children in 6 month to 3 years range without adopting any procedure or considering it effect on children’s health.

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