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Commonwealth Games
Govt treads cautiously on contracts

Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

New Delhi, February 1
Eyebrows are being raised in high government circles over several complaints alleging that attempts are being made to influence decisions to award lucrative contracts associated with the 2010 Commonwealth Games to favourites.

Fearing that the contracts, if awarded indiscriminately, may turn into major scams before the Lok Sabha elections, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is believed to have put the Group of Ministers (GoM) and nodal ministries on alert. According to sources, these complaints are targeted against top politicians-cum-sports personalities and officials responsible for the selection of equipment and material needed for the games.

The PMO and the GoM are specially worried about the soon-to-be-awarded contracts for the opening and closing ceremonies that may cost over Rs 1,000 crore.

The Tribune, on January 19, had carried an exclusive report about the turf war that was on among ‘major players’ to back their favourites for the lucrative business deal of organising the opening and closing ceremonies.

Current estimates indicate that the expenditure on the Commonwealth Games would be somewhere around Rs 7,907 crore. Nearly, 1,280 players belonging to 18 disciplines are getting ready for the mega event, scheduled for 2010.

The PMO, the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation have received anonymous complaints during the past few weeks, alleging that attempts were being made by ‘those who matter’ to give contracts related to games to favourites.

Copies of the complaints have also reached the Union Ministry of Sports and various committees of the GoMs concerned with the mega sports show. Sources maintain that most of the complaints are targeted against well-placed individuals associated with the organising committee of the games, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Delhi Development Authority.

Regarding these complaints, including those which are related to the opening and closing ceremonies, the CBI sources said it was not in a position to launch a full-fledged investigation without the government’s permission.

“But we are not throwing these complaints in the bin as they may be useful at an appropriate time,” the CBI sources said, observing that informal scrutiny does indicate that there are attempts to influence the decision-making process.

Recently, in the case of opening and closing ceremonies, speculation began that Wizcraft, an event management firm, is among the front-runners as it has the backing of highly influential persons associated with the organising panel and the Indian Olympics Association. Others engaged in the turf war are the Delhi Administration, the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

At the 2006 Melbourne Games, Wizcraft had organised a half-an-hour cultural event portraying the next host, India, which reportedly caused a heavy financial dent in the exchequer. The CBI is reportedly making a preliminary inquiry into it.

The organising committee of the Commonwealth Games has been sanctioned Rs 1,628 crore for conducting the event and additional Rs 678 crore for the preparation of teams. The SAI has received Rs 2,195 crore for the development and renovation of its stadiums. The DDA has been sanctioned Rs 631 crore for developing the international zone, a games village and sports infrastructure.

The complainants have alleged that expenditure figures are being inflated for unexplained reasons. They have also talked about wasteful expenditure by various bodies and unnecessary appointment of a host of consultants and officials by the organising panel.

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