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Of baby weighing machines, inflated bills & sleaze…

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  29 April 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Murky deeds of Social Welfare department

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, April 28: From inflated bills and tailored bidding processes to fictitious stock entries - the Social Welfare department of Assam, one of the largest recipients of Central funds, has resorted to all sorts of illegalities to embezzle public money over the years.

A small instance of how baby weighing machines were procured in the year 2012 will suffice to show that the department committed the most blatant illegalities in handling funds from the Consolidated Fund of Assam.

While no transparency was maintained in the bidding process, the weighing machines were procured at a much higher rate than the market price.

The cash memo of the supplier shows that the substantial quantity of 16,452 units were received by the Social Welfare director - who was neither the user agency nor the store keeper - against a bill of Rs 3.06 crore. This fund origited from an ICDS grant from the Central government.

According to the official website of the manufacturer (M/S Krups), the weighing machines purchased by the department costs Rs 1,242 (MRP) as on June, 2015. Four years back, the State's Social Welfare department had, however, procured the machines at the rate of Rs 1,865 per unit in March, 2012, official records said.

Another shocking part of the transaction was that the entire tendering process was completed within a week. The work order was issued on March 7, 2012, the supply of 16,452 units completed and the bill submitted on March 15, 2012.

Sources said that no vendor in Assam can supply 16,452 units of baby weighing machines in seven days, that too of a particular model.

The capacity of the weighing machines procured was 25 kg, though officials admit even those of 10 kg capacity would have sufficed.

What is worse, the bills upon which payments were made, did not contain the complete address, telephone numbers, TIN, CST etc details of the supplier, raising doubts if these were genuine.

Citing such instances, the Asom Jatiya Ga Sangram Parishad has filed a PIL in the Gauhati High Court seeking a proper probe into the irregularities. The petitioner also questioned as to how the treasury office and the bank concerned allowed withdrawal of such a large amount, without the recipient mentioning its me and bank account number.

Doubting whether the supplier actually existed, the petitioner has alleged that the department was able to indulge in such corrupt practices as its transactions are not ameble to the CAG's audit --- since the expenses were either from their CAs or from other banking instruments.

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