Purchase of 26 lakh gunny bags: Govt finds losses worth crores; to initiate action against GM, others too
DW Bureau / Chandigarh
Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has ordered action against the 2004-batch IAS officer M P Arora, Punjab Sugarfed General Manager Hardeep Singh Sarangal along with several other officials for allegedly causing losses worth crores of rupees in the purchase of gunny bags, it is learnt.
Two days ago, the CM ordered to initiate action against former Sugarfed Managing Director Arora along with others following a recommendation made by the Financial Commissioner (Cooperation) against them. A probe had earlier indicted these officers for causing huge losses to the Punjab Sugarfed ÔÇö an apex body of fifteen Cooperative sugar mills in the State.
A top government officer informed Daily World on Friday that while the CM has directed the Department of Personnel to take appropriate disciplinary action against Arora, orders have been issued to the Sugarfed MD to initiate action at his level against the GM concerned besides other officials. Out of fifteen Cooperative sugar mills under Punjab Sugarfed, six mills are lying closed, whereas nine are still functional. Nearly 1.80 lakh farmersÔÇÖ families are connected with the sugar mills in the State.
The matter relates to purchase of 26 lakh gunny bags during 2012-13 by the then Sugarfed MD, MP Arora allegedly at double the rates of previous prices. The issue came to light when the audit department raised objections to the purchase of gunny bags and observed that Punjab Sugarfed should have considered buying plastic bags (which are quite reasonably priced) as compared to jute bags. ÔÇ£Had Sugarfed purchased even 50 per cent plastic bags, the Federation would not have suffered losses to the tune of Rs 2.18 crore,ÔÇØ the officer remarked. The audit department further observed that plastic bags were being purchased even by private companies.
Arora, however, in his reply to the charges, said that his junior officers never proposed to purchase plastic bags and that he had not received any direction to purchase plastic bags when he took the decision to purchase the jute bags. The IAS officer argued that since jute bags have re-sale value, traders prefer to purchase sugar in jute bags instead of plastic bags. ÔÇ£It is also easy to handle jute bags, and if the cost and benefit analysis is done, Punjab Sugarfed did not lose any money due to his decision,ÔÇØ Arora said in his reply. He is presently posted as Special Secretary (Animal Husbandry).
The Financial Commissioner (Cooperation), however, observed that Arora placed the orders to buy very costly jute bags on November 12, 2012 ÔÇö even as his office received Government of India instructions the same day with regard to the purchase of 40 per cent plastic bags. ÔÇ£There is nothing on record to suggest that Arora made efforts to amend the purchase order of jute bags even after receiving the GoI instructions,ÔÇØ the FC observed while recommending disciplinary action against the IAS officer and other Sugarfed officers.
I followed past practice: arora
Former Sugarfed MD M P Arora, however, said that gunny bags were being purchased by the Sugerfed for a long time. ÔÇ£I had no knowledge about the government instructions that it was mandatory for us to purchase of plastic bags till we placed the orders. Even my junior officials did not bring the instructions to my notice. Sugarfed GM, H S Sarangal took the requirements from mills for buying jute bags, he added.