Shunglu Committee Report For Whom The Bell Will Toll?
Mr Suresh Kalmadi now has one reason less to complain. His grouse was that only his colleagues in the Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games are being victimised while others, who were also involved in the preparations of the mega sporting event—Delhi government and Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF)—have not been questioned.
Kalmadi, who was summarily sacked as chairman of the Organising Committee of the games along with Secretary General Lalit Bhanot, has repeatedly asserted that he never took any decision arbitrarily and wanted that others involved in the decision making should also be questioned.
His protests seemed to have borne fruit. The Shunglu committee’s interim findings have even put Delhi Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and top brass of the CGF in the dock.
Perhaps for the first time in her 12-year-long rule, Sheila Dikshit is feeling the heat and charges of procedural wrongdoings not from the opposition but from the committee set up by the government. So serious were the corruption charges that on October 17, barely two days after the Games were over, that government asked Mr VK Shunglu, former Comtroller & Audit General (CAG) to look into the allegations which had severely dented the prestige of the country.
Three days later the government named Shantanu Consul, Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, as the second member of the committee and also announced the terms of reference for this two-member inquiry panel. The government, gave a free hand to the panel by allowing it to examine both international and national advisors, consultants and officials of the Organising Committee.
Not only that, the high-profile Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a statement saying the panel will examine “planning and execution of development projects related to the Games and contracts for service delivery, with reference to time, cost and quality”.
Already facing flake from various quarters over corruption and other scandals the government took no chances and sent the report to the Union Home Ministry for further action. The PMO has also directed the ministry to reply to queries raised in the report on works done by the Delhi government. However, as expected the Delhi government described the Shunglu report as the product of paranoia.
Interestingly, the panel was formed even as various agencies like the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), CAG, the Income Tax and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) were independently investigating many cases related to irregularities and corruption. Most people were skeptic about the panel and some even called it a whitewash committee but all were proved wrong.
The damning indictment of the people and agencies involved in the preparations of the games clearly shows that Shunglu Committee has done its job well and it is now up to the government to take action. People and media were forced to take note of the committee’s finding because no body ever thought that Delhi’s all-powerful Chief Minister and Lt Governor will figure in the reports.
It rattled the Delhi government and its bureaucracy. The panel found procedural violations by Khanna and Dikshit for alleged inadequacies in executing projects related to Games.These two names figured in two reports on alleged irregularities in executing contracts related to construction of the Games Village and city infrastructure projects. The Committee also held Dikshit for her poor oversight on various Games-related projects.
It said the Chief Minister took personal interest in the planning and execution of these projects. While full credit must be given to the CM for the leadership provided, she also carries the responsibility for the decisions taken including those relating to ‘city image’ improvement projects which cost the city dear, said the report.
It suggested that the government should examine the governance structure of DDA including the continuance of the Lt Governor as the ex-officio Chairman of DDA and evolve measures to strengthen the ‘accountability systems’ in the development authority.
The report has estimated Rs 9,000 million as “cost of delay” by certain government departments in implementing city infrastructure-related projects and Rs 3,000 million loss to DDA in construction of residential facilities at the Village. It raised question regarding the procedure and found fault in choosing real estate developer Emmar MGF to construct over 1,100 residential flats inside the Games Village and recommended action against public servants concerned for “dolling out largesse to the Project Developer (Emaar MGF)”.
The report pointed out how deadlines were fixed and missed and highlighted manipulative cost in various contracts. “In street lighting contracts, the contractors have received undue gains to the tune of Rs 6,320 million…In streetscaping contracts, the contractors are estimated to have been unduly benefited to the extent of at least Rs 160 million,” the report said.
In all, the Committee identified 52 projects that were under construction before the CWG and involving an amount of Rs 7,156 crore. It scrutinised 19 of them involving an expenditure of Rs 3,054 crore.
“All projects require a host of preparatory actions before the start of the project…These actions have to be initiated well in advance as they take considerably long time… the work should have started during the 2005-06, and estimated that works worth over Rs 5,500 crore were carried out, 75 per cent of them by Delhi’s PWD.”
It added: “It is likely that the conduct of key members of Works Advisory Board, including its Chairman, was complicit in causing ‘undue gain’ to contractors.”
A beleaguered Sheila Dikshit then went on offensive saying that people found guilty of wrongdoing in Games projects must be punished. However, extra care must be taken to ensure that innocent parties are not made to face harassment, she added.
“The government agencies are working on nabbing the guilty. However, we must ensure that officials, who are not involved in any wrongdoing and have put in a lot of hard work to make the event successful, do not face any harassment,” she said.
Apart from the Delhi government, CGF also lambasted the report with its President, Michael Fennell, describing the parts of reports as inaccurate and unsubstantiated statements. According to Fennell it was important to address the matter fully as the reports lacked context and fairness. “The CGF strongly refutes any implied allegations in the reports of wrongdoing on the part of the CGF or its officers,” Mr Fennell said.
By Harpal Singh Bedi