More skeletons may tumble out of CWG closet

By Pritam Pal Singh, IANS,

New Delhi : A 12-day sporting event, Rs.28,054 crore ($6 billion) expenditure, 100 times cost escalation, 15 cases registered, 200 people questioned, 25 arrests, including of the top man. The skeletons of the 19th Commonwealth Games (CWG) have not stopped tumbling out of the closet, with India’s premier probe agency saying more cases were likely to be registered.

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Investigations into the conduct of India’s biggest sporting event began just 10 days after it ended in the capital Oct 13, 2010.

While India finally pulled off the event with aplomb, the run-up was widely criticised for shoddy infrastructure that crumbled in the face of heavy rains, missed deadlines coupled with allegations of irregularities worth crores.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the irregularities, has arrested former Organising Committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi.

“The agency is still investigating and a few more cases will be registered,” CBI spokesperson Dharini Mishra told IANS.

A top CBI official said, “We are waiting for a report from the home ministry before filing a fresh FIR relating to construction of the Games Village.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a high-level panel headed by V.K. Shunglu, a former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), to look into the irregularities.

The two-member Shunglu panel in its six reports indicted Kalmadi for running the OC “like a club” with little accountability, besides Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejender Khanna, suspended Prasar Bharati CEO B.S. Lalli, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and various government agencies.

India’s official auditor, the CAG, also looked into the irregularities, putting the cost of the event at Rs.28,054 crore, nearly 100 times more than the original figure of Rs.296 crore.

In its 743-page report, spread over 33 chapters, the CAG severely indicted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Office and the Sheila Dikshit government for deep flaws and financial losses in the conduct of the Games.

It said while the PMO erred in appointing Kalmadi as OC chief, the city government’s delays in decisionmaking cost the national exchequer heavily.

It alleged discrepancies in projects related to streetscaping, street lighting, procuring low-floor buses, construction of bus shelters and the broadcasting services contract, among others.

“We have also formed a special investigative team (SIT) to look into the irregularities pointed out by CAG,” a top CBI official told IANS.

In April this year, the CBI arrested Kalmadi and various OC officials for alleged financial irregularities in executing the contracts. They are now lodged in Tihar Jail.

The agency has so far submitted chargesheets in three cases before the special court set up to look into the CWG cases.

On May 20, the CBI in its first chargesheet named nine accused, including Kalmadi, OC former secretary general Lalit Bhanot and former director general V.K. Verma.

CBI Special Judge Talwant Singh May 23 took cognisance of the chargesheet for their alleged role in the irregular award of a contract to a Swiss firm for installation of Timing-Scoring-Result system for the sporting event.

Indicting Kalmadi and others, the CBI in its chargesheet said: “Kalmadi is the main accused as he was the person with all supreme powers.”

In its second chargesheet filed July 29, the agency named four Municipal Corporation of Delhi employees, a private firm, its two co-promoters and an official of Philips (India) for allegedly conspiring by inflating bills for upgrading the street-lighting system.

The agency Sep 12 filed a third chargesheet in the additional sessions court in Pune against officers of The Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), Ashok Leyland and Pragati Hightech Products for allegedly hatching a criminal conspiracy and providing substandard buses to the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC).

The agency will soon file a chargesheet in the AM Films and AM vans case which relates to the alleged fudging of transport payments for the Queens Baton Relay (QBR) in London as part of CWG ceremonies, CBI officials say.

The agency, in an attempt to expedite its probe, had also sent several teams to various countries, including France and England, to private firms which bagged the contracts in partnership with their Indian arms.

(Pritam Pal Singh can be contacted at [email protected])