Mumbai: In a new twist to the controversy involving Pankaja Munde, it was revealed on Friday that the NGO, which was given a contract by the Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister to supply 'chikkis', is headed by a Congress leader.
Munde is in dock over alleged irregularities in awarding contracts worth Rs 206 crore (Rs 2.06 billion).
Among the irregularities Munde is accused of is a contract to purchase 'chikkis' (sweet cookies with nuts and dry fruits in a jaggery base) from a women's NGO based in Sindhudurg, though the NGO's manufacturing facilities were not ascertained.
The Indian Express has now revealed that that the Sindhudurg-based Suryakanta Mahila Audyogik Sahakari Sanstha is headed by Pradnya Parab, Congress’ women’s cell head for the Sindhudurg district.
The revealation has left the Congress red-faced. Notably, the party had registered a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and sought a CBI probe into the matter.
As per the documents which the Congress submitted to the ACB, the state government had issued Government Resolutions (GRs) for the award of three contracts for dry coconut chikki, rajgira chikki and micro-nutrient chikki to the NGO on February 13.
The contract for micro-nutrient chikki was worth Rs 80 crore at a rate of Rs 28.50 per 100 gm. The contract for rajgira chikki was worth Rs 23.85 crore, assuming a rate of Rs 21.50 for 100 gm, while the contract for dry coconut chikki was worth Rs 10.41 crore (Rs 20 per 100 gm).
However, MK Gawade, adviser to the NGO and a cousin of Parab, said Suryakanta had received a contract of about Rs 75 crore — Rs 52 crore for peanut micro-nutrient chikki and Rs 22 crore for rajgira chikki — to supply a total quantity of about 3,000 tonne.
The compliant filed by the Congress had also cited a letter from the Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad about the chikki having bits of sand and clay in it. To this, Gawade said, “The moment we learnt about the complaint, we immediately sent samples for testing to a government laboratory in Nagpur. The results say the samples are fine. However, we have sent the samples to another government laboratory in Delhi and are awaiting written results. We take all precautions to ensure our products are of the best quality.”
According to the daily, Parab, a three-time local corporator, was earlier the head of the women’s cell of the NCP in Sindhudurg district. She joined the Congress in 2010. Senior Congress leader Narayan Rane had inaugurated Suryakanta’s first factory when the NGO began operating in 2005. “We started making chikkis and supplying them to the state government and at the district level for aanganwadis in 2011-12. Our only aim is to give employment to women in the district,” the daily quoted the 55-year-old Parab as saying.
The daughter of union minister Gopinath Munde, who died in a road accident in New Delhi last year, is accused of doling out the multi-crore-rupee contracts through 24 GRs on a single day (February 13) instead of adopting the e-tendering or tender route.
Among the allegations against Munde are irregularities in awarding contracts for workbooks for students, water filters, growth monitoring machines for malnourished kids, medicines and 'chikkis' (sweets cookies with nuts and dry fruits in a jaggery base).
Munde has rubbished all allegations in an e-mail statement and claimed that some of her dynamic decisions as minister to reduce corruption have upset some "money-minded bunch of people".
As per the state government's norms set in December 2014, e-tendering is a must for all contracts in excess of Rs 3 lakh and in cases where the rates were fixed, e-tendering was mandatory for contracts worth Rs 1 crore since April this year.
Munde is accused of awarding a contract to a Navi Mumbai-based firm for students' workbooks worth Rs 5.6 crore with the cheque issued to its proprietor in his personal capacity, and an approval to purchase water filters from a Nashik-based company at Rs 4,500 per unit -- but Munde allegedly hiked the cost to Rs 5,200 per unit, although the company had no manufacturing facilities and was to outsource the product, violating government norms.
Besides, two separate orders were issued to purchase growth monitoring machines, used to weigh undernourished kids, and awarded to two separate parties at a cost of Rs 18 crore and Rs 6 crore, respectively, and approval of a medical kit at Rs 720 per unit -- but since the provision was for only Rs 500 per kit, the supplier was allegedly permitted to reduce the number of medicines in the kit to keep it within the limit.
Another Rs 41 crore has been directly disbursed in advance to the 'aanganwadis' for buying eggs and bananas for children.