India Games successfully reach finish line but corruption inquiry begins

 

WITHIN HOURS of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games concluding, India’s federal government ordered a high level investigation into allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the run-up to the event.

Former auditor-general V K Shunglu was appointed last Friday to head the panel of investigators inquiring into the games which is to submit its findings to prime minister Manmohan Singh by January 2011.

The panel will look into the organisation and conduct of the games, fix responsibility for the alleged irregularities and also prepare a dossier on lessons learnt for such future events, officials said.

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, one of the officials behind the frantic last-minute preparations for the games that ended on October 14th on a high note warned that those found guilty would be punished.

“The prime minister has said that whatever has gone wrong will be dealt with severely, and eventually (those involved in) corruption will not get away,” Dikshit told several television news channels over the weekend.

The October 3rd-14th event involving 71 Commonwealth countries was the costliest in the games’ history with its initial organising budget of €1.4 billion more than quadrupling eventually.

The soaring costs and highly publicised construction delays that generated negative publicity for India fuelled intense criticism of the games organising committee, particularly its head Suresh Kalmadi.

But Kalmadi, an MP from India’s ruling Congress Party has denied any wrongdoing and insists that the accusations of poor and delayed construction had nothing to do with his committee.

He also welcomed the investigation, saying he had nothing to hide. But media reports over the weekend quoting senior officials blamed Kalamdi for most of the ills associated with the shambolic preparations for the games.

The comptroller and auditor general, India’s official anti-corruption watchdog had, in August reported a plethora of problems with construction work, including the use of poor-quality material and the dubious and arbitrary awarding of lucrative contracts.

A fortnight before the games opened, thousands of engineers and workers were racing to finish the athletes’ village, various sports stadiums as well as roads and over bridges associated with the sporting event.

Many participating countries initially held back their athletes following reports of dirty bathrooms and exposed wiring and flooding, with many star performers from Australia, Britain and Canada even opting out of the event.

In a poll published over the weekend in the widely circulated Times of India, 86 per cent of respondents said the corruption charges should be fully investigated and the guilty brought to book.