After controversy surrounding his degree, now Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde, has found himself in yet another soup. The minister is now facing allegations of irregularities in a contract awarded by him.
According to reports, the finance department has sought a detailed probe into allegations of irregularities in a Rs 191 crore contract awarded by Tawde’s School Education Department without e-tendering. The contract, cleared by Tawde, was put on hold after the finance department objected to it. The issue is about the supply of fire extinguishers to 62,105 zilla parishad schools in Maharashtra.
According to an Indian Express report, on February 11, 2015, Tawde’s department issued a government resolution authorising the office of the Education Director (Primary) to enter into a rate contract to supply the fire extinguishers. Each fire extinguisher was to be procured for Rs 8,321 and each school was tobe provided three extinguishers.
“Official communications show that the orders were issued following Tawde’s directives dated January 6,” the finance department stated in an official note. Tawde confirmed he had given the directive. “The file in this regard was first moved during the erstwhile Congress-NCP regime. The then Education Minister (Rajendra Darda) had originally noted in the proposal’s favour,” he said. Following the government’s orders, Mahavir Mane, Education Director (Primary), awarded the rate contract to Thane-based Reliable Fire Engineers on February 27.
The department of finance’s final approval was not taken before authorising or signing the rate contract. But after senior bureaucrats in the finance department objected and pointed to alleged irregularities in the contract, the education department stayed its earlier order on March 4. The finance department note states that by then, the contractor had already raised a bill of Rs 6.20 crore for the supply of 6,047 extinguishers. This, as per reports, was raised in a single day on March 2.
The finance department’s note observes that contracts worth Rs 191 crore were entered into by the department even though it had just Rs 19 crore in budgeted funds for the purchase of “miscellaneous items” for zilla parishad schools. Bijay Kumar, Principal Secretary, Finance, also pointed in the note that the dealer which was allotted the work was not on the government’s rate contract list. Tawde, however, claimed “the beneficiary contractor existed on the central government’s rate contract list”. He added that this information had been shared with the finance department.