The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) on Wednesday carried out searches in the offices of the Vice-Chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University P. Murugesa Boopathi in a case relating to irregularities in the purchase of cane harvesters.
It also raided the office of a Coimbatore-based agricultural engineering company that sold the harvesters.
Besides, searches were conducted in Mr. Boopathi's houses in Chennai and Coimbatore.
The DVAC said in a release that the charge against Mr. Boopathi was that he had connived with Elseetee Agro Machineries India Private Ltd., Coimbatore, to purchase defective whole cane harvesters at an exorbitant price, without the taking into confidence the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Board.
It said a detailed inquiry revealed that the university purchased a whole cane harvester on March 25, 2010 for Rs. 1.41 crore. During the demonstration of the harvester, university officials noticed several defects, which the DVAC claimed Mr. Boopathi was aware of.
He, however, did not inform the board of the defects when he made a proposal to purchase four more harvesters, the agency said.
The Vice-Chancellor also did not take the Board's concurrence in placing orders for the harvesters to the very firm at the very rate without going in for tenders and putting conditions for rectifying defects, it said.
The release said Mr. Boopathi abused his official position, overruled TNAU officials by saying that the board had approved of the orders and hurriedly released funds on October 2, 2010 and awarded the contract to Elseetee Agro Machineries India Private Ltd., on October 6, 2010. He did this without placing the purchase order before the board, which was scheduled to meet the following day.
And, finally, the DVAC said that its investigations had revealed that Elseetee Agro Machineries imported very similar harvesters and sold them to a few private companies around the same time for Rs.71 lakh a machine – almost at half the price it had sold to the TNAU.
From the investigations, the DVAC had concluded that Mr. Boopathi had “connived” with the firm to cause loss to the exchequer. It had charged them for offences under Section 120-B (conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and 13 (2) read with 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in the case it had booked on May 8, 2012.
The DVAC said that it searched the official residence of Mr. Boopathi on the university premises, his office, his residence in Chennai, the office of the Registrar, TNAU, Coimbatore, the office of the Dean, Agricultural Engineering College and Research Institute, TNAU, Coimbatore, the office of Elseetee Agro Machineries Private Ltd., LCT R Tractors and Tillers, LCT Feeders, Coimbatore, and the residence of K.R. Ananthasainam, proprietor, Elseetee Agro Machineries Private Ltd.
V-C denies allegations
Denying the allegations, Mr. Boopathi told The Hindu that the university had floated open global tender for the purchase of the first harvester, which was for the university's use.
On the first three occasions, there was no response. Only during the fourth attempt the company in question, Elseetee Agro Machineries Private Ltd., responded. And it was the only company to respond. Therefore, the university could not compare prices.
Mr. Boopathi also said the purchase of the other three harvesters was for the Tamil Nadu Government's Agricultural Engineering Department.
The department had requested the TNAU to purchase the harvesters on its behalf as the university had one. He maintained that he did take the consent/approval of the board, which consisted of only Government officials. He contended that he had adhered to the norms and “followed the Government instructions.”