Time to name, shame

Give credit where it’s due. The United Progressive Alliance government has done well to appoint a committee headed by V.K. Shunglu, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and a respected civil servant, to investigate allegations of corruption in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games. That this happened immediately after the Games concluded — warts and all, they went off well, with Indian sportspersons doing their country proud — belied the widespread cynicism that the political class would use the relatively smooth conduct of the Games to whitewash the wrongdoing.
Mr Shunglu has three months to complete his inquiry. He has a large body of documentation before him, ranging from media reports to evidence already gathered by the current CAG and his office, and by investigative agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate and the income-tax department. In addition, he is expected to call and question officials and record primary evidence.
The budgeting and execution of the 2010 Commonwealth Games has been among the murkiest for any major sports event in recent years. India’s private sector skills — say in the services sector, from technology to hospitality — were deliberately kept out of the preparations. The focus was almost entirely on state agencies and public sector corporations. It was obvious political and governmental control of such bodies allowed for a certain opacity, and made embezzlement that much easier.
Essentially, there are three sets of institutions Mr Shunglu needs to look at: the Organising Committee (OC); the Union ministry of urban development and its agencies; and the Delhi government and its civic agencies. It is taken of course that his report will cover controversial financial deals and how these were entered into. It would also be useful if he were to make an assessment of the structuring of and decision-making systems within these bodies. This would clarify the mistakes India needs to avoid while putting together an event of this magnitude, whether related to sports or otherwise.
Take the OC. This was a strange hybrid body that was essentially living off taxpayer money and government hand-outs but claiming operational autonomy. Cultural institutions and sport federations can demand a similar status on the basis of long-standing tradition. The OC had no such legacy; it was an ad hoc entity, coterminous with the Games. It had a general body comprising over 450 people, besides 1,600 employees. It is an open secret that Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the OC, packed it with his cronies and relatives of cronies. These people were paid salaries using grants given by the Government of India.
The process of making the OC accountable was delayed for two-and-a-half years by Mr Kalmadi and his lieutenants. In May 2007, the ministry of youth affairs and sports issued an order bringing the OC under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The OC took the matter to the Delhi high court, eventually losing its case in January 2010. Mr Shunglu’s report would do well to recommend that all such bodies — whether delivering a sports event or an international health conference — need to conform to RTI provisions if they are seeking public money.
The Union government gave the OC `2,394.25 crore as loans under various heads. The OC’s projections were that it would get `1,708 crore as revenue and repay the government. Eventual revenue was less than half the amount, and much of it coerced from Union government agencies such as Indian Railways. The OC needs to explain how it arrived at these projections. The specific project planners need to be identified and their financial interest in the Games investigated. They have caused a loss to the exchequer. They need to be held liable. If nothing else, their incompetence should constrict them from managing public funds in future.
About a fourth of the sum given to the OC — `687 crore to be exact — was for hire/purchase of “overlays”, i.e. temporary fitting inside stadiums that had already been built, covering such items as tents, porta cabins, air-conditioners, generators, fitness equipment. What is the state of this “overlay” material? How much of the money can be recovered by selling it or getting refunds from rental agencies? If specific equipment is declared as irreversibly damaged, can third-party audits happen? If the OC writes off hired equipment as damaged and offers to compensate renting companies, who are the vendors who will benefit? All this needs to be in the public domain.
Move to the ministry of urban development. It built three stadiums and was a partner, along with a property development company, in the construction of the Games Village. The Village was supposed to have been built in Bawana, in northwest Delhi, and meant to trigger urban renewal in an outlying part of the capital. In what circumstances and under whose direction was the Village moved to the Yamuna riverbed? Why were environmental risks ignored?
Who gave permission to the private developer to convert car parking space into incremental flats, and so caused flooding and seepage in the lower storeys following heavy rains in Delhi this summer? Can this be redressed, and the car parking space restored before the company and the Delhi Development Authority (an agency under the ministry of urban development) start selling these flats in the open market? Mr Shunglu’s committee needs to tackle these issues.
Finally, the government of Delhi spent `16,560 crore on the Games. Part of this money was used on the Delhi Metro, power plants, flyovers and bridges. About half was spent under decidedly dodgy heads. `650 core was set aside for street lighting, `1,175 crore for widening and resurfacing of roads and street-scaping, `1,800 crore for buying buses. Some of this involved digging up completely good roads and pavements — repaired only months earlier — and relaying them.
Who approved this? Was there a broader plan? Who drew it up? Who were the contractors? When were tenders issued? What are market prices for comparable tasks? Did covering up nullahs to create parking facilities — a job still incomplete in some areas of the city such as Defence Colony — really require `400 crore? How did the Municipal Corporation of Delhi choose partners who were given prized plots in key markets of the city and allowed to build toilets cum shops/restaurants? The questions could take years; Mr Shunglu has only 90 days.

Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

Post new comment

<form action="/comment/reply/37689" accept-charset="UTF-8" method="post" id="comment-form"> <div><div class="form-item" id="edit-name-wrapper"> <label for="edit-name">Your name: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="60" name="name" id="edit-name" size="30" value="Reader" class="form-text required" /> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-mail-wrapper"> <label for="edit-mail">E-Mail Address: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="64" name="mail" id="edit-mail" size="30" value="" class="form-text required" /> <div class="description">The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.</div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-comment-wrapper"> <label for="edit-comment">Comment: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <textarea cols="60" rows="15" name="comment" id="edit-comment" class="form-textarea resizable required"></textarea> </div> <fieldset class=" collapsible collapsed"><legend>Input format</legend><div class="form-item" id="edit-format-1-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-1"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-1" name="format" value="1" class="form-radio" /> Filtered HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Allowed HTML tags: &lt;a&gt; &lt;em&gt; &lt;strong&gt; &lt;cite&gt; &lt;code&gt; &lt;ul&gt; &lt;ol&gt; &lt;li&gt; &lt;dl&gt; &lt;dt&gt; &lt;dd&gt;</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-format-2-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-2"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-2" name="format" value="2" checked="checked" class="form-radio" /> Full HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> </fieldset> <input type="hidden" name="form_build_id" id="form-abd94843f7fdc0c12f2aefa3c58f8a15" value="form-abd94843f7fdc0c12f2aefa3c58f8a15" /> <input type="hidden" name="form_id" id="edit-comment-form" value="comment_form" /> <fieldset class="captcha"><legend>CAPTCHA</legend><div class="description">This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.</div><input type="hidden" name="captcha_sid" id="edit-captcha-sid" value="81580612" /> <input type="hidden" name="captcha_response" id="edit-captcha-response" value="NLPCaptcha" /> <div class="form-item"> <div id="nlpcaptcha_ajax_api_container"><script type="text/javascript"> var NLPOptions = {key:'c4823cf77a2526b0fba265e2af75c1b5'};</script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://call.nlpcaptcha.in/js/captcha.js" ></script></div> </div> </fieldset> <span class="btn-left"><span class="btn-right"><input type="submit" name="op" id="edit-submit" value="Save" class="form-submit" /></span></span> </div></form>

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.