Appearing in public for the first time since allegations of corruption in awarding contracts were levelled against her, Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde on Wednesday said she had done no wrong, and that the media should also question the credibility of those raising the allegations.
“I am asking for and demanding credibility in politics, not just in the ruling party but also in the opposition. The Congress government had spent Rs 408 crore on procuring the same items in the same manner in the past few years before I became the minister for this department. Calling the procurement of Rs 408 crore ‘purchases’ and Pankaja Munde’s procurement of Rs 206 crore a ‘scam’ is an intentional political allegation being levelled against me.”
Pankaja said there was no question of her favouring any contractor, as the companies in question had been there since the Congress regime, and she had simply continued what the Congress government had been doing in the department.
“I have not introduced any new company in the system. I have not broken any rules. My deep intention was to not let the budget lapse and deprive children. I, Pankaja Gopinath Munde, have not done anything wrong. The media should also question the credibility of those raising allegations,” said Munde, legislator from Parli.
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Rejecting all allegations as “baseless,” Pankaja said she had cleared her stand to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the chief secretary over the matter much earlier, even before going on her scheduled vacation, when NCP’s Dhananjay Munde first raised the issue on May 20.
On the lack of e-tendering in awarding contracts, she said the state government’s decision of compulsory e-tendering for works or purchase orders over Rs 3 lakh instead of paper tendering is applicable for fresh tenders. Purchases of the women and child development department are as per rate contracts that have been fixed after tendering, hence fresh tendering for these procurements is not required, she said.
On the issue of purchase of chikkis, Pankaja said the departments of industries and women and child development were earlier with the Congress during the previous regime, when the rate contract for chikkis was finalised. This contract was at that time reserved for the company, and was the only rate contract available for the government to place orders. The quality of the chikki has been certified through at least three laboratory tests, Pankaja said. However, she did not display the copy of the rate contract like other documents.
On the issue of ontract for water filters and purifiers, alleging that Everest Industries, did not have its own manufacturing plant, Pankaja said the tender for the rate contract was open for manufacturers and dealers, and accordingly the company is a dealer.
Housing Minister Prakash Mehta shared the dais with Pankaja. Rashtra Samaj Paksha’s Mahadev Jankar, Pankaja’s sister and MP from Beed Pritam Munde, and former MLA Bhimrao Dhonde were also present.
NCP’s Munde, leader of opposition in the upper house, had written to Fadnavis alleging irregularities in the award of 24 contracts worth Rs 206 crore on a single day by Pankaja.