• Associate Sponsor

Documents point to ‘unusual haste’ by Munde department in clearing purchases

After discussions in her office on February 12, chikkis totalling Rs 75 crore replaced ladus, biscuit contract was limited to Rs 5 crore.

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Published: July 4, 2015 6:04 am
MWCD, Pankaja Munde, unusual haste, ICDS, WCD, RTI, mumbai news, india news, national news, nation news, Indian Express After discussions in her office on February 12, chikkis totalling Rs 75 crore replaced ladus, biscuit contract was limited to Rs 5 crore.

Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde is facing allegations from the Opposition of not following norms for purchase of material for anganwadi schools. It has come to light that revised proposals for buying chikkis and ayurvedic biscuits worth Rs 80 crore were formulated, processed and approved on a single day on February 12.

Official documents with The Indian Express suggest “unusual haste” in approving contracts for purchase of chikkis and ayurvedic biscuits for infants and pregnant and lactating mothers without following the e-tendering process.

A letter from the Commissioner of the Navi Mumbai-based Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Vinita Singhal to Sanjay Kumar, Principal Secretary, Women and Child Development, Maharashtra, dated February 12, states that “based on instructions of the WCD Minister (Munde) and guidelines provided by the Principal Secretary (WCD) during a meeting dated February 12, orders to cancel all proposals sent previously for providing supplementary nutrition to infants and pregnant and lactating mothers were cancelled, and a fresh proposal is being placed for approval.”

Share This Article
Related Article

The fresh proposal was sent from Navi Mumbai-based office to WCD department that functions out of the new administrative building opposite the state secretariat building in South Mumbai, and then travelled to Munde’s office in the secretariat building the same day. Official documents confirm Munde cleared the proposal the same day.

WCD’s public information officer Seema Doke remarked in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query that the minister’s office hadn’t planned any meeting in this regard on February 12. “The minister held a discussion with the Principal Secretary and the ICDS commissioner in her office. No minutes of this are available,” the RTI reply states.

This raised eyebrows since Munde’s department altered the original note and it was approved. Sanjay Kumar, when contacted, admitted the decision to reject old proposals and formulate a revised proposal was taken during the discussions. Documents with this newspaper show that the purchase of chikkis worth Rs 75 crore had never been part of the department’s original proposal. “The decision was taken following discussions we held that day,” from additional grants made available by the Narendra Modi government for 20 districts.

Going by the original proposal submitted on January 17, 2015, Singhal’s office recommended ayurvedic biscuits and ladus for beneficiaries. It suggested a Rs 13.73 crore contract for biscuits, Rs 15.90 crore for rajgira ladus, and Rs.14.58 crore for peanut ladus. Her office recommended dates and tetra-pack milk, but pointed out rate contracts for these two did not exist, and approval from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s office would be needed. Her office pointed out that the state finance department had stated that the department must place before them changes made to the supplementary nutrition before utilising additional central funds.

Official documents show Munde commented on this proposal first on February 7, when she told the department to check side effects of ayurvedic biscuits before processing the file. She also raised technical queries.

After discussions in her office on February 12, chikkis totalling Rs 75 crore replaced ladus, biscuit contract was limited to Rs 5 crore.

Official documents show no formal explanation was given either for replacing ladus or altering contract amounts, Kumar said on Friday that “during discussion with the minister, it was felt that infants would find ladus difficult to eat. Chikkis were more consumable at that age.” Pankaja Munde was not available for comment despite attempts. Her office when contacted, claimed that “the decision was a collective one taken by her, Sanjay Kumar, and Singhal.” An official who did not want to be named explained, “It is common knowledge that chikkis are more nutritious than biscuits. Justification for the change is not reflected in official documents.”

Munde has been justifying the “haste” as a “dynamic decision to save lapsing of central funds”. Senior government officials, on condition of anonymity, pointed out to norms that the central government grant, released in January, would not have lapsed at the end of the year. “Our understanding is that the funds would have lapsed. Anyway not utilizing central grants would have impacted our budgeting for the next fiscal,” Kumar said Munde’s office echoed his remark. “Non submission of certificate showing utilisation of grants would have impacted further release of central grants,” said an official at Munde’s office.

The Opposition is not convinced about the “unusual haste.” Congress leader Sachin Sawant, who lodged a complaint against Munde with the state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) said, “We (the Congress) always maintained that all of this is an act of blatant corruption, and it stems from the top. All those involved in decision making must be probed,” he said.

Munde’s staff said she could not be reached. Munde had travelled to Aurangabad on Friday afternoon. Munde had said on July 1 that she had not violated any rules. “I have not broken any rules. My intention was to not let the budget lapse and deprive children of supplementary nutrition. I have done no wrong. It is unfortunate I am being targeted for dynamic decisions. All charges are baseless and politically driven,” she had said.

For all the latest Mumbai News, download Indian Express App

  1. Māndhata
    Jul 5, 2015 at 8:46 am
    End of the year is March; So I guess Munde was right in hastening the process. Between placement of order and deliveries there is usually a time lag. Also there is a time lag between deliveries and bill payment. I guess they were working on tight schedules if they wanted funds not to lapse. Is not the w point of this exercise to provide nutrition to children & lactating mothers? I want to the government to be proactive. Come on guys, when government goes slow you rail against it; and when it is proactive you rail against it. Do you want government to implement this plan in five years - approval in one - finding funds in another year - placing orders in the third etc.? It is health of people that we are talking about . Good for you Munde
    1. T
      Jul 4, 2015 at 8:47 am
      Just recall Pankaja Munde is niece of Pramod Mahajan so it is not difficult to find motive behind her quick decision
      1. M
        Jul 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm
        ThkeEnglish media andthe Congress areoverzealous. Letthlem allowtheinvestigatorsdothe job. Lethm(Congress andMedia0 monitor the progress. M.Srilnivasan
        1. R
          Jul 4, 2015 at 5:13 pm
          So far no politician has ever admitted having committed any mistake or even corruption. Of course Pankaja Munde Palwe is not an exception. Madam Munde may have noble motive of utilising central fund instead getting the same lapsed because it was allocated to be spend within the stited period. But at the same time it is justifying that why the funds been allotted to spend so haphazardly knowing fully that e-tendering is a time bound process and the ministry should have approached the centre to carry forward the funds for them. Instead Madam Munde took immediate decision and in the bargain has benefited some unscrupulous suppliers who are neither capable of supplying the material nor can guarantee quality and quany of the supplies. Vaidya Engineering Nagpur [ Dies it belong to kin of MaGo ] which is a sick petty fabrication unit which used to undertake small grills and rolling shutters in the slums of Imambara of Nagpur. Madam Munde approved this person to supply Stailess Steel Plates. There is a need to probe every person involved including the transporters, manufacturers, handlers, middlemen and persons in decision making including the peons and Daftaries to the Chief secretary. The ministry meanwhile publish the rates for each item and variation level to the market rates, [w and retail both]. Resignation is not the answer. We want transparency in every deal. That is only the answer to every dispute and that way she can shut mouths of the critics.