Common Wealth Game Scams

CVC report: CM refuses comment

TNN, Jul 31, 2010, 01.27am IST

NEW DELHI: “Do you want me to go to jail?” This was how an agitated chief minister Sheila Dikshit responded on Friday when she was repeatedly asked to comment on CVC report on corruption in Delhi government projects for the Commonwealth Games.

A day after the news of CVC probe broke and Dikshit issued gag orders on all her ministers, the CM refused to make any comments on it. Though she briefed the media about deadlines for removal of “large malba” and again claimed debris lying around the Games sites would be removed by August 10.

She was accompanied by four ministers and several senior officials including the chief secretary and the advisor of Commonwealth Games. PWD minister Rajkumar Chauhan – whose department is handling most of the major projects where corruption has been cited – was a notable exception.

The chief minister said her government had yet to receive a copy of the CVC report and hence she would not comment on it. “When the report comes, action will be taken but all this work has to be finished first,” she said. However on being asked where the buck stops given the serious nature of allegations and chair she holds, her irritated response was: “Do you want me to go to jail? Till now it is only something you have heard about so I will not comment on it. In government, everything has a process and if the findings are correct, we will look into the matter once the Games are over.”

Her irritation lingered on when she was asked about finance minister A K Walia’s visit to the Yamuna Sports Complex on Wednesday after which the minister had issued a statement saying the complex – which incidentally is a DDA project – may not meet the deadline. “Did you hear or not the deadlines that I read out just now,” asked Dikshit. “We will meet them.”

She refused to comment on media reports about how many of the equipment the health department is procuring for the Commonwealth Games are being bought at several times the market price. “I will not comment about any of this,” she said.

The statement that she issued talked about how the city was undergoing massive transformation when so many “mega projects” are being carried out simultaneously and “it is quite natural that during the execution the city has an unkempt look”.

“All agencies, especially Delhi government, is steadfast in its resolve to meet the deadline of August 31,” the statement read. The statement also went on to talk about how many projects like Barapullah Nullah Road and UP Link Road started late because of myriad reasons and how PWD is confident of finishing all of them “well before time in order to have sufficient time for tests and trials.”

UK government follows CWG cash trail

Navika Kumar, Times Now, Jul 31, 2010, 01.17am IST

LONDON: The Indian High Commission has alerted the Union government about investigations launched by UK authorities into cash transfers of Pounds 2,47,469 (approx Rs 1.68 crore) in October 2009 from the Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee (OC) to a UK-based company, AM Films UK Ltd.

The money was transferred in lieu of services obtained from the UK company during the Queen’s Baton Relay function in London in October last year. The British Revenue and Customs Department has now written to the Indian High Commission, saying there are discrepancies in the payment of this money by the OC.

The UK government has stated that apart from Pounds 2,47,469, a figure of Pounds 25,000 (Rs 17 lakh) is being transferred every month into the account of UK-based AM Films. A rough estimate reveals that nearly Pounds 4,50,000 (Rs 3.06 crore) has been transferred to AM Films until now.

A visit by TIMES NOW to the premises of AM Films UK Ltd in London showed that the company on location was AM Vehicles Hire Ltd. Further, Ashish Patel, the director, had since resigned from the company on July 14, 2010. The details of the investigations are now being tracked by ED.

Documents with TIMES NOW show that the deal came to light when the OC asked for a VAT refund of Pounds 14,000 in March this year for payments to AM Films. The deal’s scrutiny led to the Revenue & Customs Criminal Investigation Team pointing out loopholes in the contract awarded to AM Films.

In a letter dated June 7 to the Indian High Commissioner Nalin Surie, Meera Rajah of Revenue & Customs said there was no written contract between the CWG and the UK-based AM Films, no tendering procedure was followed, and no paperwork regarding the contract was done.

A release issued by OC secretary-general Lalit K Bhanot stated, “The OC firmly refutes allegations of financial irregularities with relation to the launch of the Queen’s Baton Relay…we have followed due diligence in making all payments, getting the clearances from the Executive Board and from Reserve Bank of India for incurring the expenditure in foreign currency. All remittances happened against this clearance.”

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit tersely told TV channels, “We will look into the matter.”

The discrepancies show that while OC states that it transferred Pounds 2,47,469 to account no. 22701021 (Sort Code 151000) with Royal Bank of Scotland for video equipment purchased, AM Films has claimed that it provided services of “car hire, make-shift toilets, barriers and electricity”. The differing versions and investigations of lack of procedures, raised the alarm. British officials also met Indian High Commission officials on June 14.

India’s Deputy High Commissioner in London R N Prasad’s letter (dated June 14), a copy of which is with TIMES NOW, to the sports ministry and the MEA seeks advice on the reply to be given to the UK government. This letter and its details are now with ED, which launched investigations into the deal on July 21.

The question raised by UK authorities is whether AM Films, which is supposed to have supplied video equipment, but which supplied cars for rentals as per its own admission, is now providing consultancy for costume designing for which it is receiving Pounds 25,000 per month.

An internal note on June 14 by Rahul Srivastava, first secretary in the high commission in London, states that AM Films is a one-man company owned by Ashish Patel, aka Ash Patel, who has been introduced to T S Darbari and Sanjay Mahendroo of the OC.

Darbari, director, corporate strategy in the Organizing Committee (OC), was recently suspended after a Customs complaint in India but was reinstated after the intervention of OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi through a letter written to Union sports minister M S Gill on April 29, 2010. With the CVC spotlight on CWG deals, the latest disclosures are likely to add to the discomfiture of the CWG brass.

Greedy CWG officials play with nation’s reputation

Pradeep Thakur, TNN, Jul 31, 2010, 12.23am IST

NEW DELHI: In an astounding disclosure that could blow the lid off a big scandal involving the Commonwealth Games, top sources in the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) told TOI that every quality certificate scrutinised by a CVC team in 16 Games projects so far has turned out to be forged or suspect.

“It’s a very disturbing discovery,” said an official. “Fake certificates were being routinely issued to pass substandard work and material. We have not yet been able to gauge the financial implication of this irregularity but it is certain to have led to very big gains for vendors and contractors.”

Following this discovery, the CBI director had a meeting with the Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha last week. Besides the cases being referred to it by the CVC, the CBI team is going through numerous complaints it has received from different channels.

The CVC has so far scrutinized just 16 Games-related stadia upgradation and civil works projects, which include construction of roads, pavements, road grade separators, street lighting, etc. These projects are cumulatively worth Rs 2,477.22 crore.

In the course of its scrutiny, the CVC team has zeroed in on the role of the third party quality assurance agency, appointed by civic agencies to monitor the quality of work and metrials. So far the examination has revealed that all certificates were issued without ground verification or technical examination, raising the suspicion that they were forged or suspect.

Last week’s incident at a test event where a swimmer was hurt because of a loose grill could turn out to be more than a one-off. Inferior quality of materials and workmanship could pose a danger to athletes and the public during the actual Games – and severely impact India’s reputation on the world stage.

The CVC team is now expected to look into the shareholding pattern of this third party inspection agency which was supposed to submit monthly inspection report on quality of work. It’s another matter that this agency did not even bother to make monthly inspections and submit reports.

Prima facie, this would indicate a contractor-engineer-officials nexus that worked to deliberately pass off inferior work and inflate costs with the aim of siphoning off money.

The CVC team has already drawn attention to failed concrete samples, inferior fittings, and even inferior anti-corrosion coating on reinforced steel (reported by TOI in detail over the last three days). In its report it has cited many instances of how no quality checks were made.

The use of steel and aluminium panes have also been of a lower standard than what was specified in the bid papers. The agencies involved are both of the central and the Delhi government. Their officials would come in for questioning for outsourcing quality checks to some third party and not ensuring that the job given was actually being carried out.

Concrete core samples taken from the already laid concrete at many of the stadiums, the CVC’s technical evaluation team found, had failed to meet the requirement of strength. The CVC carried out the strength analysis at an independent laboratory. The cement content was found to be much less than prescribed and recorded to have been used.

CVC report: CM refuses comment

TNN, Jul 31, 2010, 01.27am IST


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