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BJP, Congress Demands Probe Into Mask, PPE, Testing Kit Procurement for COVID-19 in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: There seems to be no end to the row over alleged irregularities in the procurement of COVID-19 equipment and medical supplies in Odisha with the Opposition, BJP and Congress on Saturday raising fingers at the ministerial-level committee and demanding an impartial probe.
The Opposition questioned as to why the Odisha government purchased triple-layered masks for Rs 16 per piece though the Centre in its guideline had clearly mentioned that the masks cannot be sold for more than Rs 10.
According to sources, the ministerial committee in its meeting on March 26 had approved a proposal of the procurement committee worth Rs 730.18 crore for purchase of medicines and other essential items for COVID-19 management in the state.
The Centre had issued a notification on Mach 21 clarifying that the triple-layered masks cannot be sold beyond Rs 10. Despite that the state government on April 17 procured the masks for Rs 16 per piece.
“The Centre had fixed the price for procurement of PPE kits, but the state government ignored the guidelines and procured the kits at inflated rates. It clearly indicates misappropriation of crores of rupees,” alleged State BJP general secretary, Prithviraj Harichandan.
“An impartial probe is needed into the matter as several bigwigs of state government are involved. People have the right to know the reason behind Hemant Sharma’s removal from COVID-19 purchase committee,” Harichandan said.
He further alleged that the state government does not have the willingness to control the coronavirus for which it has relived nine IAS officers engaged in the management of the pandemic.
Congress also came up with similar accusations and demanded that a probe panel should be constituted to find out who are involved in the irregularities.
“While the rate was fixed at Rs 10, why the state government purchased the kits at Rs 16,” questioned Congress MLA, Suresh Kumar Routray.
“Replacing Hemant Sharma is not enough. An investigation is needed to bring all those involved in the scam to book. They should be suspended or dismissed,” he said.
However, State Health Minister and member of the ministerial-level committee, Naba Kishore Das justified that there were no irregularities in the procurement of the kits.
“The procurement was done as per the direction of the government and there are no irregularities,” he said.
Reacting to the allegations of the opposition, ruling-BJD vice-president Prafulla Ghadai said, “Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik never encourages corruption. In case of any irregularities, he takes prompt action.”
Earlier on Friday, the state government removed IAS officer Hemant Sharma from the COVID-19 procurement committee and soon after it rescinded the order entrusting additional responsibility of COVID-19 management in the state to nine senior officials.
Odisha government spokesperson, Subroto Bagchi on Saturday said that “The reshuffle in bureaucracy for COVID19 management was necessitated by govt’s long term plan to deal with the pandemic; some officials have to return to their existing responsibilities, while new hands have to be brought in to ensure that only a few are not overburdened.”

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