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Cong leader seeks probe into alleged PPE kit purchase irregularities

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 24 - Citing recent allegations that have surfaced regarding alleged �irregularities and preferential treatment� given to certain suppliers in procurement of personal protection equipment (PPE) kits and other items, Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia has approached the Upa-Lokayukta, Assam, seeking an investigation into the matter.

Saikia has sent a formal letter, along with other documents, to Justice Chittaranjan Sharma, Upa-Lokayukta, Assam, in this regard.

�I would like to draw your attention to serious allegations that have surfaced regarding irregularities and preferential treatment given to certain suppliers in procurement of various items pertaining particularly to the COVID-19 pandemic, PPE kits, by the health & family welfare department of Assam. Abhijit Sarma and Dhrubajyoti Talukdar, president and general secretary respectively of Assam Public Works (APW), an organisation that is involved in public causes such as updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), recently wrote to the Chief Minister of Assam and stated inter alia that a group of businessmen were colluding with senior officials of the health & family welfare department, Government of Assam, to monopolise supply of various items,� Saikia stated.

Saikia said the complainants have alleged that �this cartel is using the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic to mint money via irregular means�.

�They have made specific reference to contracts for supply of PPE kits and triple-layered N-95 masks worth around Rs 71 crore, details of which have not been posted online on the department�s website or the Government of Assam�s e-tendering portal in violation of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and General Financial Rules (GFR) guidelines. The APW members have also alleged irregularities in the tender for supply of sodium hydrochloride solution and malathion. Last but not the least, Sarma and Talukdar have expressed doubt about the utilisation of an amount of Rs 630 crore which has been given so far by the Central government as COVID-related aid to the Government of Assam,� stated the senior Congress party leader. He pointed out that sections of the media have given �wide coverage� to the matter.

�A similar complaint was made to the Chief Minister by an RTI activist named Adish, who provided documentary evidence about how the health & family welfare department of Assam had procured overpriced COVID-19 testing kits under the National Health Mission (NHM). Adish has pointed out that the NHM had paid Rs 1,145 per kit, whereas the same supplier had provided kits to the Government of Uttar Pradesh at the rate of Rs 490 per kit, i.e. a difference of Rs 655 per unit,� stated Saikia, who is also Leader of the State Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

Saikia claimed that these are extremely serious allegations and deserve to be probed, especially as the issue involves reported profiteering at a time of general human misery.

�As such, I request you to take cognisance of the matter and institute an investigation to ascertain the veracity of these charges,� Saikia stated in his letter to Justice Sharma.

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