Times of India: Nagpur: Monday, March 20, 2017.
The Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM), a wholly-owned government company engaged in destroying high-value forest, has hit yet another controversy by placing orders for four LED touch screen displays costing about Rs33 lakh to a city-based firm without floating any tenders.
Information against the 'deliberate' lapse has been received under the RTI Act on an application filed by consumer rights activist Avinash Prabhune. Procurement of expensive interactive LED touch screens without tenders not only implies to financial irregularity but is also in violation of government guidelines in respect of purchase rules issued vide a GR on December 30, 2015. The GR states that any purchases of Rs3 lakh and above will be done through e-tendering.
The touch screens were procured for managing director and chief general manager's (CGM's) meeting hall despite the fact that FDCM already has latest overhead projector for meetings and there was no immediate need for expensive touch screen display.
Prabhune has questioned FDCM move. From the corporation, which fells large-scale trees around tiger corridors for its survival, such gross violation is unacceptable. Already, FDCM has clandestinely buried Rs4 crore financial irregularities in over 25 years detected in audit.
It is mandatory for any government office to follow e-tender procedure for any store purchase of amount above Rs3 lakh. Yet FDCM MD's office placed order on September 7, 2016 to city-based Online Computers for procurement of material worth Rs33 lakhs.
"At the time of placing this order, government rates under director general of supplies & disposals (DGS & D) were not approved. The rate contract had lapsed in May 2016. Yet, orders were placed in September 2016, when no rate contract was available. Hence, it was must to follow e-tender procedure for procurement of the material," says Prabhune.
RTI reveals that out of the four LED touch screen display, two were supplied and bills were submitted in October 2016. On these bills, FDCM's financial adviser raised objections as procedure was not followed before placing order.
On this, even ex-MD Suresh Gairola had directed to take approval of FDCM board of directors (BoD) for procurement before making payment. Gairola had also cancelled the order for remaining two LEDs in December 2016.
During BoD meeting held on December 30, 2016, it was decided to take legal opinion of FDCM counsellor. Legal opinion by MM Sudame, who is on the FDCM's panel, asked to cancel the orders citing that items procured were not branded and hence require financial procedures, which were not followed.
Sudame also informed that as out of the four screens, only two were supplied and order for remaining two were cancelled, it itself showed that officials at top level are firm that procurement in such a manner is illegal and hence it should be immediately cancelled.
Prabhune says from the documents, it is clear how cash-strapped FDCM is violating rules and guidelines for store purchases for expensive items.
A board meeting has been called on March 23, allegedly to approve the bills of the local firm. Present MD Umesh Agrawal did not respond to TOI calls. He also did not reply to an SMS sent to him. Principal secretary (forests) Vikas Kharge too was unresponsive.
FDCM chairman CS Chandel said the material must have been ordered as per rate contract. "It may happen that few days after placing the order rate contract must have lapsed and hence the problem. Yet, if it is against legal opinion and rules we will reject the bills and contract too," Chandel said.