NEW DELHI, Feb 5 � Fresh trouble may be brewing for Tarun Gogoi Government, as complaints have been filed with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) alleging irregularities running into crores of rupees in purchase Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Bed Net� (LLIN) at inflated rates by Assam Government�s Health Department.
Hardly had the Rs 1000 crore� North Cachar Hills scam died down when a fresh controversy threatens to rock the State, as a Lucknow-based NGO specialising in RTI has moved the CVC alleging a massive scam in purchase of medicated mosquito nets spread over several States including Assam, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Goa among others.
National RTI Forum, a Lucknow-based civil society working in the field of transparency in governance claimed to have written a letter to the CVC to get the matter inquired and to take appropriate action against those found guilty, the NGO said in an email.
State Health and Family Welfare Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, when contacted however, denied any wrong doing, pointing out that the mosquito nets purchased by Government of Assam were of 190 size, while other States bought 130 size nets.
According to the NGO, Orissa bought the nets the same month as Assam Government in 2009 at Rs 279 each from the Indian subsidiary of the MNC, while Assam paid Rs 400 for each net.
Assam stands out because it has purchased the highest number of over 21 lakh (21,12,000) LLIN paying Rs 400 per net totalling Rs 84.48 crore. In contrast, LLIN were sold to Goa at Rs 199 apiece.
The Government of Assam�s Health Department made two purchases in September and December 2010 from an intermediary Global Business Services, considered curious because other states had purchased the LLIN directly through the Indian subsidiary of the Switzerland-based manufacturers.
The State Health Department placed its first order (letter no 69/2008/PT/78 dated August 27, 2010. The letter mentioned that 16.75 lakh units were to be supplied for Rs 67crore under the Chief Minister�s Special Scheme 2010-2011.
Interestingly, documents perused by this newspaper show that Global Business Services entered into an agreement with Vestergaard Frandsen India Private limited to buy the LLIN at the rate of Rs 295 per unit. The purchase order was made on August 30, 2010.
The second order was placed on December 18, 2010 letter no (HSG/Mosquito/69/2010 (1500) for supply of 4,75,500 units at the same rate under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Global Business Services bought the mosquito nets from Vestergaard Frandsen India Private Limited, this time at the rate of Rs 285 per unit.
Alleging high level corporate corruption, the NGO has alleged that a Swiss multinational company Vestergaard Frandsen Group SA�s Indian subsidiary (Vestergaard Frandsen India Private limited) has been found to have supplied LLIN to different states at completely varying rates.
LLIN is in great demand in all humid, forest areas where mosquitoes are a great menace and hence many States of India and many public authorities purchase these LLIN to be distributed among the poorest people. Vestergaard Frandsen is among the largest suppliers of these LLIN in India as in many other countries of the world.
According to the NGO, the company supplies the LLIN either through direct contract or through some intermediaries, but the rates of these LLIN in both the cases vary in a very large range, which points to foul play, it alleged.
Interestingly, in case of Assam, the intermediary Ms Global Business Services Private Limited, New Delhi purchased these LLIN from Vestergaard Frandsen India Private Limited even before the date of contract with the Assam Government at much lower rate of Rs. 295 per unit and later supplied the same to the Assam Government at Rs. 400 per unit, the NGO alleged.
The State Health and Family Welfare Minister, reacting to the allegations explained that mosquito nets purchased by Assam were meant to fit in three persons and for double-beds, while other States including UNOPS bought single-bed nets. The difference in rate is because of the size of the nets, he asserted.
�In our opinion the price for single bed LLIN should be around Rs 110,� he quipped.
�The purchases have been made according to CVC norms and after proper tendering process,� he added.
�Tenders for purchase of the LLIN were published in national dailies and three groups were short-listed. Of the three, the lowest bidder was selected,� he said.
Explaining the reasons for not opting to buy directly from the Indian subsidiary of the MNC, he said that such a deal with the parent company requires payment of advance, which is not in accordance with the rules of the State Government.