Pardeep Singh Bali
In its recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has exposed the Jammu and Kashmir government over procuring and distributing sub-standard sugar in the state.
Putting a question mark over the functioning of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) department, the Audit report revealed how the concerned department has intentionally twisted the procurement process over the years to pave way for sub standard quality of the sugar.
The audit report states that since Agmark certification had a direct bearing on the quality, removal of this condition tantamount to compromising quality of sugar. The report explains that the Notice Inviting Tenders (NIT) had been manipulated in many ways. “Not only was the clause that mandated the sugar supplier to furnish Agmark quality certificate omitted from the tender notice through a corrigendum, but the eligibility conditions were distorted in such a way that registered general suppliers, authorized suppliers of quality sugar, were kept out of the competitive bidding process,” states the report.
CAG further notes that the Sugar Cells constituted by the government consisting of high ranking officials and were trashed by the directors themselves. These directors formulated the Sugar Cells consisting of Head Assistants and some other assistants of the department. “The Sugar Cells thus constituted had neither the technical background nor the requisite infrastructure to carry out the requisite quality control checks,” reads the report.
CAG report says, “Although it is mandatory as per the laid out rules that the sugar suppliers furnish quality report certifying phyto-sanitary conditions, no radiation components and crop years, however this requirement was conveniently given a skip. Thus the quality of sugar was not ensured properly.”
Apart from inferior quality of supplies, the state of mess in the storage facilities and systems in CAPD is resulting in further deterioration of sugar. In 2013, 619.38 quintal sugar was found deteriorated in Gulab Bagh godown. The department also had missing 4166 quintals of sugar in the same year. CAG has pointed out that manual of procedures that ensures effective and safe storage and distribution of sugar and food grains was being given a miss.
As per the manual, ‘the officers in-charge of stores will ensure that the grains stored in godowns are properly kept, stacked and priority in distribution is given to the earlier receipts’. In practice, CAG notes, the shortage, deterioration in stocks of sugar and rice remained un-noticed indicating that the physical verification had not been done properly over the years and the mechanism adopted in conducting physical verification of stocks in respect of these stores was faulty.