Opp MLAs stage Walkout as CM refuses to constitute House Committee to probe
IMPHAL: The last day of the 10th session of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly became eventful as opposition MLAs staged a walkout demanding that the matter issue concerning irregularities in procurement of irrigation pump sets and dubious beneficiaries be invested by a house committee.
Opposition MLA Kh Joykishan, during discussion and passing of Appropriation Bill no 2, 2020, demanded to constitute a house committee to probe in the irregularity. However, Chief minister N Biren, leader of the house refused to constitute such committee. Subsequently, the opposition MLA’s in attendance refused to withdraw the cut motion and walked out of the house at about 6.08 PM on Friday.
MLA Joykishan alleged Agriculture department of flouting General Finance rule while procuring the irrigation pump sets. According to rule no 144 of the General Finance rule, every authority delegated with financial power of procuring goods in public interest shall have responsibility and accountability to bring bring efficiency, transparency and economy in matters relating to public procurement for fair and equitable treatment of suppliers and promotion of competition in public procurement. Despite the clause 1 (b) of rule 144 of General Finance rule restricts recommendation of trade name or Brand, Agriculture department selected Kiloskar brand irrigation pump set in the tender process. It is a blatant favoritism to a particular brand which flouting the rules. To fight drought, Agriculture department procured 100 pump sets under RKVY and another 143 from the MOBC department, taking the toll to 243. Of the total pump sets procured, only 130 pump sets were distributed to the farmers, said the MLA and questioned the whereabouts of the missing 113 pump sets.
Stating that Tender process of Procurement of pumps was conducted by seven-eight times, the opposition MLA questioned why the government awarded contract without holding tender process. MLAs are law makers, the MLA questioned what will be the fate of the state when the law makers violate Law. The procurement of pumps by Agriculture department was under the sanction of RKVY for the year 2018-19. However, the pump sets distributed to the farmers were procured under sanction of RKVY for the year 2019-20, said the MLA and questioned whereabouts of the pumps procured during 2018-19.
The detailed names and address of the genuine farmers are also not clearly mentioned in the list. It is a clear indication of the mala fide intention on the part of the department, the MLA said.
The MLA demanded to constitute a house committee to probe in the missing pump sets, flouting of tender process and dubious beneficiaries.
Agriculture Minister V Hangkhanlian said that the department did not procure any irrigation pump sets in 2017 but it procured 13 pump sets in 2018 and 100 in 2019. As a part of the urgent measures to meet drought, the department procured 143 pump sets from the MOBC department with approval from the Chief minister. On July 1, 2019, Chief Minister convened a meeting in which the Agriculture department was directed to procure the 143 pump sets from the MOBC department and to procure another 100 pump sets with funding from the planning department to meet the drought situation. The department procured the pump sets at the rate approved by the tender committee of MOBC.
The MLA questioned the reason behind why the contract for procurement of the pumps had already been awarded on October 2018, much earlier to the cabinet meeting of July 1, 2019 to discuss drought situation and procurement of pumps. The MLA also demanded copy of the concurrence from the Finance department for procurement of the Pump.
The Minister replied that the state also faced drought like situation in 2018 and as such the department procured 13 pumps on credit, which subsequently was adjusted with the fund of RKVY. Procurement of the pump was a direct purchase with due concurrence from the Finance department and no tender process was carried out.
Refusing the allegation of flouting rules, the minister said that he was ready to place the copy of the Finance Concurrence and Beneficiary list in the house.
Chief Minister N Biren admitted that some lapses might have crept in the official procedures as procurement of the irrigation pumps was of an urgent nature to meet the drought situation by then. Government will make best effort to ensure that such lapses do not repeat in future. Embankment of River bund is carried out in different parts of the state to prevent flood. However, the government has no fund for the work. Despite fund paucity, government has to take up such works to fight flood rainy reason, said the Chief Minister and appealed the opposition MLA to withdraw his demand to constitute house committee.
Despite appeal by the CM, the opposition MLA, however, stuck to his demand for probe by house committee. The MLA also said that opposition will not allow the Appropriation bill to be passed until the house committee is constituted.
With the leader refused, the opposition MLAs walked out of the house. Subsequently, the house passed the bill without the presence of the opposition members.