Indian auditor raps Delhi govt over Games fiasco

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NEW DELHI, India, August 5 – India’s state auditor widened the net of blame for last year’s scandal-hit Commonwealth Games to include the Delhi state government in a scathing report released in parliament Friday.

The national watchdog also criticised the prime minister’s office for appointing Suresh Kalmadi, now in jail on charges of alleged corruption, as the Delhi Games chief over serious objections from senior ministers.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) accused the Delhi government of wasteful spending to the tune of at least $29 million during its “ill-conceived and ill-planned” programme to beautify the city in the run-up to the Games.

The criticisms are an implicit indictment of ruling Congress Party stalwart Sheila Dikshit, who has been Delhi chief minister since 1998.

At the time, Dikshit was praised for her efforts in driving the frantic last-minute preparations for what was the largest sporting event hosted by India since the 1982 Asian games.

When the Indian government launched the CAG probe into the Games last October, Dikshit was among the most vociferous voices demanding that the guilty 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 NDTV news channel at the time.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called for her to resign in light of the CAG report but the chief minister declined to respond immediately to the findings.

Speaking in the lower house of parliament, Dikshit said “How can I give a comment? We will have to read the report. Let me go through it.”

The CAG noted that Dikshit’s government had spent 48 million rupees ($1 million) per kilometre on its street beautification project, more than the Indian Railways spends on laying down railway track.

The report also listed several examples of allegedly rigged bidding for lucrative contracts to supply sports timekeeping equipment, lighting fixtures for the glitzy opening ceremony, and catering services at Games venues.

The auditors attacked the organising committee headed by Kalmadi for hyping up projected revenues from the Games to an astronomical 17.8 billion rupees ($398 million).

“In reality, the total committed revenues amounted to just 6.8 billion rupees,” the report said.

Kalmadi was arrested in April and has already been charged with alleged fraud over a $31 million deal awarded to the timekeeping firm, Swiss Timing.

The Oct 3-14 Games were meant to showcase India’s status as an emerging global power, but headlines were stolen by venue delays, shoddy construction and budget overruns in which the event’s cost tripled to at least $6 billion.

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