August 27, 2021 4:22:38 am
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has discovered irregularities in the procurement and distribution of schoolbags meant for more than 1.85 crore students of Basic Education Schools in 2016-’17. The Samajwadi Party (SP) government led by Akhilesh Yadav was in power at the time.
The findings were mentioned in a report on the general and social sector for the 2018-’19 financial year that was tabled in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly on Thursday. The audit found that of the 78.58 lakh that were supplied, 6.55 lakh bags worth Rs 9.46 crore remained undistributed even after more than three years since their purchase. The expiration date of the bags was one year from the date of manufacture, the report added.
These schoolbags had stirred up controversy because they had the picture of then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on them. A large chunk of these bags was later found to have been distributed in schools in Gujarat, with a sticker of the Gujarat government pasted over Akhilesh’s photo. Soon after it came to light, these bags were withdrawn. The audit did not mention these details and pointed to alleged distribution anomalies.
The CAG said that in August 2016 the state government instructed the Directorate of Basic Education to purchase schoolbags and distribute them for free among students in classes one to eight in government and aided junior high schools, aided madrasas, government inter-colleges (classes six to eight), and aided secondary schools.
The auditor found that different consortiums were issued letters of intent in November 2016 for the supply of over 1.85 crore bags in 120 days to designated delivery points in each district. The suppliers, however, delivered only 78.58 lakh schoolbags and received a payment of Rs 109.15 crore. Of these bags, only 65.27 lakhs were distributed to children till January 4, 2017, when the Assembly election dates were announced. The following academic year, after the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government took over, 6.76 lakh more bags were distributed.
According to the report, 6.55 lakh bags remained undistributed even after three years since purchase, resulting in an “unfruitful expenditure” of Rs 5.33 crore. The rest of the Rs 4.13-crore payment was outstanding as of September 2019, the CAG added.
The report said the Directorate of Basic Education, in its replies in August 2018 and September 2019, did not provide any clarification about why so many bags were not given to students.
The Basic Education Department said that it had forfeited the bank guarantee of the lead member of one consortium, amounting to Rs 15.6 crore, for not supplying the amount of bags ordered.
But the auditor claimed that the department did not respond till this January about actions taken over the undistributed bags. The report said, “The procurement of school bags for distribution to students suffered from deficiencies in the bidding process, irregular supply orders and non-distribution of school bags to 1.15 crore students during 2016-’17. Besides, 6.55 lakh school bags remained undisbursed even after a lapse of more than three years of their purchase.”
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