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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

CWG 2010 Scam: A Time for Answers


Now, that the Commonwealth Games 2010 are over and the results pouring in, the regulators and investigation have started their probe into what can turn out to be one of India’s largest financial scams so far. The original budget for the Games was set at Rs. 3,800 crore. However, on the basis of the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s (JPC) findings, the opposition has alleged that the actual expenditure in hosting the games was to the tune of Rs. 70,000 crore! The Government has declared an expenditure of Rs. 30,000 crore, squarely blaming the escalation on ‘rising’ prices. This is especially interesting in the light of the fact that Beijing concluded the entire Olympic Games within Rs. 28,000 crore barely two years ago.


According to some unconfirmed estimates, all bills were spuriously inflated by almost 30% and contracts given to undeclared (benami) affiliates. Several other benami deals were struck through the Mauritius route, benefiting Kalmadi’s aides. The JPC has also questioned the expenditure of Rs. 961 crore on renovating the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, where Rs. 100 crore is the highest estimate that is required for such purposes. Kalmadi’s expensive deal with AM Films, London, for providing services during the Queen’s baton relay is also under fire. The Company, AM Films, has a questionable record and was issued a liquidation notice (later withdrawn) in July 2010. Surprisingly enough, the GBP 250,000 deal had no records – not even a written contract under which the money was paid to them. The matter first came into light when the British Authorities contacted the Indian High Commission, confirming that the entire deal has gone unaccounted.

Since, the issuance of the latest findings by CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) in October, several Government agencies have sprung into action. The apex anti-corruption body has already stalled Delhi Government’s efforts to prevent the inspection of some 51 infrastructure related deals. The total number of projects stands at 76, of which 51 are ‘unrelated’ to CWG, as claimed by the Government. Consequently, nearly all the key Delhi Government Departments are under scanner. Initiating action on its own account, the Income Tax Department launched raids on 50 locations in a single day, followed by several other raids conducted nationwide. The Department was chiefly gathering evidence of discrepancies in awarding the contracts.

In addition, the matter of incomplete disclosure of information, in the matter of Queen’s baton relay in London, under the Right to Information Act by Organizing Committee has already been dragged into investigation by the Central Information Commission. Three key CWG officials and Kalmadi’s close aides were suspended immediately after the conclusion of the Games and the Enforcement Directorate has opened a case under FEMA. Having obtained sufficient documentary evidence during its investigation, the CBI, on November 23, categorically stated that Suresh Kalmadi is expected to be arrested on corruption charges in the Queen’s baton relay scandal. Meanwhile, Janta Party Leader, Subramaniam Swami has added to the woes of the PMO by asking the Premier to account for the “…… leakage of funds, gross bribery and kickbacks to the tune of 25 per cent of the total budget of nearly Rs 1,00,000 crore.” Declaring his intent to move to the apex court, Swamy has warned the PM of a 2G Spectrum-scam like situation. Amidst the flurry of activities in the alleged CWG scam, it remains to be seen if the real perpetrators are brought to justice and whether, the case reaches its conclusion in the wake of more pressing concerns, like the 2G Spectrum-scandal!

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