Tuesday November 19, 2019
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1500 Rs Kit @ 4100 Rs : Government e-Marketplace Escalates into Major Scam in Himachal Pradesh

The aim of GeM was to enhance transparency and fair price in procurements done by the government departments

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government e-marketplace, scam
The Accu-chek machine, priced at Rs 1,599 per unit, is presently available for a discounted price at Amazon for Rs 1,340 and at Flipkart for Rs 1,304. HP government purchased the same machine @ 4100 Rs. Wikimedia Commons

Instead of saving public money, the Government e-Marketplace(GeM), the one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common user goods and services required by government departments and PSUs, seems to be working at cross-purposes.

For instance, sugar testing kits which are easily available online for less than Rs 1,500 per unit are purchased through the GeM for more than Rs 4,100, at a price almost three times higher than the market rate.

With such gross discrepancies in pricing of goods, the procurement of sugar testing kits has snowballed into a major scam in Himachal Pradesh, where three senior officials have been placed under suspension.

The three officials, part of a purchase committee of the Himachal Pradesh Ayurveda Department, had placed a bulk online order for sugar testing kits on GeM in March 2019. The officials had selected the Accu-chek Glucometer manufactured by multinational company Roche to test blood sugar levels in patients.

scam, government e-marketplace
The much-hyped GeM portal was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his first tenure to facilitate online procurement of goods and services by government departments, organisation and public sector undertakings. Wikimedia Commons

The Accu-chek machine, priced at Rs 1,599 per unit, is presently available for a discounted price at Amazon for Rs 1,340 and at Flipkart for Rs 1,304. However, the Himachal Pradesh government purchased the same machine from the government’s GeM portal at an exorbitant price of Rs 4,100. The entire order placed by the HP government (till March 2019) was for 700 machines.

Talking to IANS, Director of the HP Ayurveda Department Sanjeev Bhatnagar said that three top officials, including a Deputy Director, have been placed under suspension for purchasing the machines at a very high price.

“Even if they purchased the machines from a government agency (GeM), they should have surveyed the market. The machine is available for less than Rs 1,500 in the open market. Therefore, I have given a report to the government in this connection,” he said.

Refusing to share further information, Bhatnagar, an IAS officer of HP cadre, said that he cannot comment on the role of GeM. However, sources in the know of things said that a letter from the state government has been sent to the Controller of Stores, Department of Industries (Government of India), to take up the matter with GeM authorities.

government e-marketplace, scam
Himachal Pradesh chief Minister- Virbhadra Singh. Wikimedia Commons

The sources said that besides sugar testing kits, serious pricing discrepancies have been found in bulk purchase of thermometers by the Himachal government. The specific quality thermometer which should have been priced at Rs 2,600 was quoted by the government e-commerce portal at Rs 3,000.

Sources said that in its letter sent to the Controller of Stores, the HP government has clarified that “the supplier (of Accu-chek Glucometer) has quoted the rates more than the MRP on the GeM portal which is a gross violation of terms and condition of Gem which prescribe a mandatory discount of 10 per cent on the MRP of every product.”

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In the letter, the HP government has also requested the Controller of Stores to debar the seller from GeM and refund the money against the price bid mentioned on the GeM portal.

The much-hyped GeM portal was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his first tenure to facilitate online procurement of goods and services by government departments, organisation and public sector undertakings. The aim of GeM was to enhance transparency and fair price in procurements done by the government departments. (IANS)

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WhatsApp Offering 1000GB Free Data on its Birthday a Scam

In reality, users ended up on sites that signed them up for premium and costly SMS services or installed third-party apps on their smartphones

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whatsapp, paytm, UPI-based Pay service
FILE - The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration. VOA

Have you received a WhatsApp message offering 1000GB free Internet data? Beware, as it is a scam that is spreading fast.

Researchers from cybersecurity firm ESET have received a message on WhatsApp stating that the app was giving away 1000 GB of internet data to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

The fraudulent campaign is hosted by a domain that is home to yet more bogus offers pretending to come from other well-known brands.

“What strikes us right off the bat here is that the URL that comes with the message is not an official WhatsApp domain,” the researchers said in a blog post late Monday.

Even though businesses may sometimes run promotions through third parties, the rule of thumb here is to check on the company’s website to make sure any promotion is real and valid.

If you were to click on the link, you would be taken to a page that invites you to answer a series of questions in the form of a survey — ranging from how you found the offer to your opinion on the app.

“While you would be responding to the questionnaire, the site would invite you to pass along the offer to at least 30 more people in order to qualify for the big reward’. Needless to say, this is merely a way to boost the campaign’s reach,” said the researchers.

Conference, Privacy, Social Media
FILE – Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to logos of social media apps Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram projected on a screen in this picture illustration. VOA

What are the fraudsters running this WhatsApp-themed scam looking to gain from it?

“Apparently their goal here is click fraud – a highly prevalent monetization scheme that relies on racking up bogus ad clicks that ultimately bring revenues for the operators of any given campaign,” warned ESET.

The same domain that hosts this scam is also home to many other offers, each pretending to come from a different company, including Adidas, Nestle and Rolex, to name but a few.

Also Read: Websites Using Facebook’s ‘Like’ Button Liable for Data: EU Court

In 2017, a similar WhatsApp-themed scam made the rounds that promised to unlock free Internet access.

In reality, users ended up on sites that signed them up for premium and costly SMS services or installed third-party apps on their smartphones.

“In 2018, perhaps the same fraudsters used ‘free Adidas shoes’ as the bait. Regardless of the tune, the end goal was invariably the same — give the scammers an easy way to line their pockets,” said the researchers. (IANS)