At a time when the prices of essential commodities are on an upward spiral, one expect that the red and white chequered Triveni markets, a Consumerfed initiative to make available commodities at subsidised rates, will be teeming with people. But juxtapose this outlet with a retail store in the same part of the city and it is the latter that you find with long queues. Most Triveni stores lie deserted through most of the day and the most obvious sign of its decline was in October last year when Operation Annapurna carried out by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau revealed the extent of corruption in the agency.

Procurement issues

Suspicions regarding the Consumerfed’s procurement of essential commodities at higher than market rates were confirmed during the surprise inspections. Not only did such procurement cause huge losses to the government, but also led to the shelves at Triveni stores being stacked with goods of inferior quality. Consumers naturally rejected the products as quality did not warrant the high price being charged or the prices didn’t justify Consumerfed outlets’ status as the ones making available essential commodities to the citizens at the lowest rates possible.

The competition these outlets face from branded retail chains has not been so much a culprit in Triveni’s disintegration compared to the flaws within the Consumerfed’s structure.

The many startling findings of the VACB investigations included how a driver of a high-level functionary apparently claimed an exorbitant amount of Rs.800 for a simple breakfast meal, revealing that voucher payments were made to its staff without verifying the expenses. This is aside from the actual figures in the VACB report, for instance, the Consumerfed in Kollam district allegedly purchased 18,66,199 kg of Jaya rice from a private supplier at Rs.28.50 a kg when the market rate was Rs.24.20.

Stocks left to rot

The highly priced and inferior quality goods were rejected by the consumers and stocks were left rotting in the warehouses. The anti-corruption investigators tasked to look into the state of affairs at Consumerfed reportedly found that namesake posts had been created in the organisation.