Odisha Cancels N-95 Mask Tender At Height Of COVID-19 Pandemic
Bhubaneswar: While the alleged lapses in COVID-19 medical supplies procurement has kicked up a storm in Odisha, the decision of the Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited (OSMCL) to cancel a tender for procurement of N-95 masks has now raised eyebrows.
Citing administrative reasons, OSMCL cancelled the tender on June 8 which has raised question on the timing of the decision of the government as COVID-19 cases are rising in the State.
It is alleged that the State government in its tender invitation had kept certain clauses which were almost impossible for any bidder in Odisha to fulfil. As per clause 5 (2), the bidder (manufacturers, importers, distributors) should have a minimum turnover of Rs 80 lakhs in each of the year for last three financial years.
Many believe that there are hardly any firms in Odisha that could fulfil this criteria leaving scope for OSMCL to easily award contracts to firms outside Odisha using its own discretionary powers. It is alleged that a Tamil Nadu-based company has directly benefited from this.
“In the last 3 years there has been no such situation and the production and demand of masks were low in Odisha. In no way, any firm or industry in the State would have been able to meet the condition of Rs 80 lakh turnover. The condition was kept intentionally to prevent Odisha companies from participating in the bidding,” said RTI Activist, Subhash Mohapatra.
Odisha Congress Chief, Niranjan Patnaik alleged that “During COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a mega scam in the procurement of masks. It is really unfortunate that when the entire focus of the government should be to save lives of people, they are embezzling funds that are being released by the Centre.”
Patnaik further alleged that when several states bought mask between Rs 1.34 and Rs 8. 47 per unit, Odisha procured 30 lakh masks from a Tamil Nadu-based company at Rs 16 per unit.
BJP’s Lekhashree Samantsinghar said, “It appears that there has been a scam of nearly Rs 400 to Rs 500 crore during COVID-19 pandemic. A detailed probe is required and the culprits should be booked.”
Odisha Suchana Adhikar Abhiyan, a forum of RTI activists, has reportedly lodged an FIR with the Capital Police against the State MSME Secretary, Hemant Sharma alleging his involvement in the PPE kit procurement irregularities.
Responding the allegations of opposition parties, BJD vice-president, Debi Prasad Mishra said, “Only bringing allegations without giving any evidence is not enough.”