Onion seed scam: Former OSSCL MD’s link alleged

Bhubaneswar: More and more mysteries behind the irregularities in onion seed procurement in State are unfolding. A senior official of the Odisha Agriculture department has alleged senior IAS officer and former MD of the Odisha State Seeds Corporation Ltd (OSSCL) R Santh Gopalan’s involvement in the scam.

The officer who has brought the allegations is the current joint director of the Agriculture department Prabasi Sethi. Sethi has also claimed similar irregularities worth crores of rupees in Agriculture and ancillary departments.

“The company which was given the tender was a blacklisted company in many states and when the tender is awarded to the same company how it is not a case of tender fixing,” said Sethi.

Sethi has based his allegations on an enquiry report on the tender process for procurement of Onion Seeds in the 2014-15 Rabi season, where it is stated that the deadline for filing tender was August 19, 2014 at 2:00 PM. However, West Bengal Hybrid Seeds & Bio Tech Private Limited whom the contract was awarded had filed the tender at 1:45 PM.
As per the report, the tender was not filed thorough the prescribed medium – Speed Post or courier. Moreover, the company did not mention the variety of seeds that it seeks to supply in the tender.

Based on these findings, Sethi said that whosoever was in charge during the period is responsible for the lapses.
“During RS Gopalan’s tenure, there have been widespread irregularities in various schemes including purchase of mobile soil health, procurement of maize, BGRI and implementation,” further alleged Sethi stating that a CBI investigation could unearth these irregularities.

However, Gopalan has refuted the allegations saying that these are being made out of some personal grudge against him. “Sethi doesn’t have enough qualification to know the details of the tender process. While working under me he was suspended for mismanagement due to which he holds a personal grudge against me and has brought these allegations.”

Earlier Agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy said, “OSSCL has recommended further probe into the Onion seed procurement irregularities by Vigilance department and after the Vigilance report is received everything will be clear.”

Meanwhile, on October 30, OSSCL had sought the status of the investigation in a letter to the vigilance department, the reply of which is yet to be received by it.

Notably, the lapses came to fore following the investigation report of the State Agriculture department on the irregularities in tender fixing for seed procurement. The report has pointed out lapses on many counts in the tendering process. However, interestingly the State agriculture department is advocating payment of pending dues to the company which is alleged to have been a beneficiary of such lapses and supplied substandard seeds.