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Dilip Kumar

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Lokayukta has directed the State Vigilance wing to investigate into the alleged scam in the purchase of PPE kits and masks by the Odisha Government, running into crores of rupees from the State exchequer.

The vigilance department has been asked to complete the preliminary investigation and submit a report in this regard within two months.

The Lokayukta has ordered the anti-graft agency to carry out the investigation under the direct supervision of a SP or ASP cadre officer. It has posted the next hearing to February 15.

On Monday, two senior IAS officers – Industries Secretary Hemant Sharma and Managing Director of the Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited Yamini Sarangi – appeared before the Lokayukta  for a  hearing in connection with the alleged scam. Both the officers appeared before the anti-corruption ombudsman for the fourth time in connection with the alleged irregularities.

During their appearance, they presented relevant documents related to the procurement of the PPE kits and masks. They informed the Lokayukta that all the procurements were made through a special procurement committee.

On the other hand, petitioner Sudarsan Das, a Congress leader has alleged that the information provided by the officers is fake and fabricated.

“I am grateful to the Lokayukta who accepted my petition and directed a vigilance probe into the alleged irregularities. The order of the Lokayukta is a strong blow to the State government. The information provided by the two officers is not based on facts and it is an attempt to suppress the truth. The fact is that the Odisha government procured the masks at Rs 16 while other States purchased the same at a cost of Rs 6 or 7 or 8. What the Odisha government clarified that such procurement was made in adherence to the Central government guidelines is ambiguous," alleged Das.

Earlier on June 5, the State government had removed Sharma from the supervision of the procurement of masks and PPE kits following allegations of corruption made by Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee and Odisha Vikash Parishad (OVP), a social organisation.

Later on November 5, the Odisha Lokayukta had served a notice to Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy to reply over the allegations by November 23.

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