TWO days after the committee appointed to probe the issue of poor quality of masks submitted its report, the civic administration of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) on Friday said it will recover the amount paid to suppliers for supplying sub-standard masks. However, the administration said no action will be taken against officials who failed to check the quality of masks before distributing them, drawing criticism from civic activists.
“Of the total 13 suppliers, two of them supplied poor-quality masks. We have decided to serve notice to them and recover the amount for the masks. If they fail to pay the amount, we will lodge an FIR against them, ” said Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar.
The PCMC had ordered as many as 17 lakh masks worth Rs 1.7 crore soon after coronavirus cases started spreading in Pimpri-Chinchwad in March-April. Of the 17 lakh masks, 15 lakh were distributed in slums while two lakh were distributed in the temple town of Dehu.
The masks were primarily ordered from self-help groups and other suppliers without inviting tenders. The administration had said since it was an emergency situation, they had to issue orders for urgent supply of the masks without going through the lengthy tender process.
NCP corporator Datta Sane was the first leader to raise the issue of poor-quality masks. Earlier this month, he passed away due to Covid-19.
Another NCP corporator Mangala Kadam, who had presented 107 poor-quality masks during a PCMC general body meeting, said, “There should be a thorough probe into the issue…I will study the report and then comment.”
Joint City Engineer Pravin Tupe, who was part of the committee, said,”We collected several samples of masks which were supplied from different sources and compared them with the ones approved by the civic medical team. However, we could not get some samples from the stores department. They had probably distributed all of them….We found masks provided by two suppliers faulty… there was no pressure on us to give clean chit to anybody”.
While two suppliers, Gurunoor Enterprises and Sai Enterprises, were found responsible for distributing sub-standard masks, the PCMC so far has no idea about the number of poor-quality masks provided by suppliers. “We are still looking into the issue. We have not yet decided about the amount to be recovered from suppliers,” said the PCMC chief.
Though activists have also demanded action against civic officials, especially against the stores department, Hardikar said no action will be taken against them. “Though they are guilty, the guilt relates to not keeping a sample of the masks provided by suppliers to cross-check with the actual stock provided. They will be warned but no action will be taken against them,” said Hardikar.
Civic activist Maruti Bhapkar, in a letter to the PCMC commissioner, said his administration will be setting a bad precedent if it tried to hold only suppliers guilty and let off officials. “It was the duty of the stores department officials to verify the samples provided and final stock supplied by the suppliers. It has come to our knowledge that medical officials had not cleared the masks for supplying in slums, yet the stores department allowed their distribution… ,” Bhapkar told The Indian Express.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner Manoj Lonkar said,”Though the two suppliers have been held guilty, not all the masks provided by them were faulty or of substandard. Some of the masks were certainly of poor quality…,” he said.
Activist Shridhar Chalka said, … “If 15 lakh masks were distributed, then every alternate persons should be wearing the masks in Pimpri-Chinchwad as it has a population of nearly 27 lakh. It is not only about quality of masks, but also the size and quantity of masks supplied… the PCMC administration should come clean on this front.”
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