PMO, Delhi CM indicted for Commonwealth Games flaws (Roundup)

August 5th, 2011 - 10:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) India’s official auditor Friday severely indicted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Office and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s government for deep flaws and financial losses in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games, giving the opposition more ammo to target the ruling alliance.

In the report tabled in parliament Friday, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) noted: “The modus operandi observed over the entire gamut of activities leading to the conduct of the games was inexplicable delays in decision making which put pressure on timelines and thereby led to the creation of an artificial or consciously created sense of urgency.”

The 743-page document, spread over 33 chapters, says while the PMO erred in appointing Suresh Kalmadi, the now jailed chairman of the Organising Committee of the games, the city government’s delays in decision making had cost the national exchequer.

Additional Director General CAG Rekha Gupta told journalists that the “report is aimed at monitoring and course correction”.

The Oct 3-14 2010 games went off smoothly with India giving its best ever performance with a record haul of 101 medals. But the cost escalated 1000 times to Rs.28,054 crore from Rs.296 crore in May 2003 when the bid was submitted.

The report is bound to create ripples in the political space with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Part of India-Marxist demanding the immediate resignation or ouster of Dikshit.

Blaming the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for appointing Kalmadi as chairman of the Organising Committee, Gupta said auditors have found that the central government ignored repeated warnings from successive sports ministers against his appointment.

“Despite strenuous objections from the erstwhile minister of youth affairs and sports, late Sunil Dutt, Kalmadi was appointed as the OC chairman based on the PMO recommendation of December 2004,” Gupta said.

She said then sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and secretary of the ministry, late S.K. Arora, in 2007 also warned of how Kalmadi’s appointment had rendered the sports ministry “ineffective in exercising the control over the OC”.

But the warnings to the PMO, cabinet secretariat and the group of ministers “met with strong resistance from the OC chairman and were unfruitful”, she said.

The report also said that the government of India “didn’t have a clear and realistic assessment of the estimated cost of hosting the games”.

Dwelling at length on the city infrastructure, the report said favours were granted to vendors who were not qualified.

“Contract management was highly irregular and deficient. The processing of certain sensitive contracts and cases were allocated in an arbitrary and adhoc manner to certain officials who had no linkages with the concerned functional area,” she said, indicating how the games were riddled with favouritism.

The report also indicts the Delhi government for causing delays in works execution that led to cost escalation.

It said the street-scaping and beautification project was “ill-conceived without a broad overarching vision and perspective of how this would impact urban design and development”.

“We found the average awarded works for street-scaping and beautification of Rs.4.8 crore per km to be exorbitant with total estimated wasteful expenditure of more than Rs.100 crore,” said Gupta.

The report has also found loopholes in the implementation of the street lighting project in Delhi. “It was (the decision) taken with the active involvement of the chief minister and resulted in avoidable expenditure of more than Rs.30 crore.”

The rules were flouted by the Prasar Bharti when it gave the broadcasting services contract for the games to SIS Live “on a single financial bid”.

The CAG has found irregularities in the purchase of low-floor buses, construction of bus shelters, street lighting and the light panels on the buses.

But Dikshit refused to take the blame for the alleged irregularities and said her government will cooperate with the parliamentary panel which will examine the CAG report.

“I assure you that when the CAG report goes to the (Public Accounts Committee) PAC whatever departments are asked to come and answer any queries, we will cooperate with them completely and fully,” Dikshit told reporters.

The Congress also defended Dikshit even as the opposition stepped up its attack after the CAG report was tabled in parliament.

“I think now it is the only moral duty of Dikshit that she must resign,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters outside parliament. “If not, the Congress high command must ask her to step down immediately and they can elect their new chief minister.”

The CPI-M leader Brinda Karat said Dikshit should leave the post until her name is cleared.

“Dikshit must resign till the matter is over.”

No, said the Congress. The report, which is reported to have pointed a finger at the chief minister, was itself not a ground for Dikshit to resign, said Law Minister Salman Khurshid.

“That (objections raised by CAG report) doesn’t automatically lead to kind of things that should require people to step down,” Khurshid told reporters.

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