LoP, ministers continue to spar over ''irregularities'' in COVID-19 equipment procurement

Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah and Ministers of the ruling BJP in Karnataka continued to spar on Friday over charges of corruption in procurement of COVID-19 equipment and supplies, with the LoP demanding to know why the government was afraid of constituting a judicial Commission to probe the matter. Siddaramaiah had on Thursday released documents comprising statistics to support his claims of corruption. Minister R Ashoka rejected his demand, saying the allegations were baseless and politically motivated, aimed at demoralising officials working against COVID. "Order and constitute a judicial commission...let a sitting High Court judge inquire and let the truth come out... whatever documents they (govt) have, let them place it before the judicial commission. We will place whatever we have," Siddaramaiah said. Speaking to reporters here, he said, "if I' 'm lying and you (Ministers) are telling the truth, constitute a judicial commission. Why are you afraid of a judicial commission? why are you saying that there will be no inquiry? I reiterate and demand strongly that the government order for a judicial commission." Siddaramaiah on Thursday had alleged that the total expenditure of the government relating to COVID was Rs 4,167 crore, of which at least Rs 2,000 crore was "pocketed" by ministers and officials. Refuting this, five Ministers, including Ashoka, had held a press conference on Thursday, in which they said the overall expenditure of the government is Rs 2,118 crore, with Rs 1,611 crore going for Covid relief measures and Rs 506 crore for purchase of medical equipment. Hitting back at Siddaramaiah for his comments on Friday, Ashoka said the government on July 23 had given a ''sufficient reply'' to the charges and made it clear that everything was transparent. The opposition has no face after our clarification," he said. "....we will decide if an inquiry is required or not. We need not learn from him (Siddaramaiah)...if we go on ordering inquiry into things they demand, the whole police force will not be enough. Levelling such baseless charges is like an addiction for them," he said. The Minister also reminded Siddaramaiah that he is the leader of the opposition, not the Chief Minister. "He (Siddaramaiah) cannot order us. He can give suggestions to the government," he said.
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