New Delhi: Engulfed in a spate of corruption allegations, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee on Thursday finally cracked the whip by suspending a close Suresh Kalmadi aide T S Darbari and two other tainted high-ranked officers in a desperate bid to restore its credibility.
Under increasing pressure to take a tough stand as more scandals rocked the mega event, the OC also decided to terminate the multi-crore deal with an Australian company and refer cases against its tainted officials to the Enforcement Directorate.
The decisions were taken by the OC's all-powerful Executive Board which met for an emergency meeting where the report of its three-member probe panel led by CEO Jarnail Singh was read out.
The OC's Executive Board Meeting was preceded by high drama with its treasurer Anil Khanna submitting his resignation on moral grounds after it came to light that his son's firm had secured a contract for laying tennis surfaces for the Games' venue. A K Mattoo was re-appointed to the treasurer's post since he was familiar with the functioning of the OC.
Launching the clean-up operation, the OC decided to suspend Joint Director General T S Darbari, Deputy Director General Sanjay Mohindroo and M Jaychandran, Joint Director General (Accounts and Finance) for their alleged role in the Queen's Baton Relay in London.
"We have suspended these officials as they were responsible for the delivery and conduct of the Queen's Baton relay in London. We are handing over the case to the Enforcement Directorate for further investigation," OC Secretary General Lalit Bhanot told a press conference.
Bhanot said that the three-member panel probing the allegations of financial irregularities had submitted its report to the OC Chairman and the Executive Board discussed their recommendations.
Under-fire Chairman Kalmadi, who has been facing the heat in the wake of the corruption scandals and isolated within his party, skipped the press conference leaving Bhanot and Mattoo to face the media.
Bhanot said the Executive Board had sought legal opinion before deciding to terminate the contract with the Australian company Sports Marketing and Management, which had been roped in to get sponsorships for the event.
"The Executive Committee terminated the services of SMAM with immediate effect on ground of non-performance after giving notice. We had fixed target dates for SMAM to deliver. We had fixed USD 122 million to be brought by June 30 but they failed. This is the reason of their termination. Legal opinion says we can terminate them on three day notice. "Not even one rupee has been paid to SMAM," he added.
On the overlays procurement issues which had also come under the scanner, Bhanot said, "We have asked the government to give some people to verify the quality and quantity of work related to CWG."
"We have written to CVC to look into it. CPWD has agreed to give some people to verify the products. Overlays need to match the stadiums. The Games venues are world class and we need world class overlays," he said. Elaborating on the suspension of the three top-ranked officials, Bhanot said the three member probe panel had heard their views.
"The three member committee has met all the three people suspended. Executive Board decided to suspend Darbari and Mahindroo. These two people were responsible for the delivery and conduct of the QBR. We have handed it over to ED," he said. "M Jaychandran, who was Jt DG Accounts and Finance at the time of QBR also needs to be punished. We will hear him tomorrow. He is also suspended," he said.
Asked why the senior officials, including Suresh Kalmadi should not own responsibility for the corruption allegations during the QBR, Bhanot said, "It is difficult to own responsibility. There are 1500 people are working in the OC and it is difficult to know what the person at first floor doing.
"There is a system and senior management is not directly controlling all the OC staff. But I will tell you no individual official has any financial authority. It is done collectively by the Board," he said. Bhanot said the OC was open to any enquiry by any government agency.
"We are open to any query. And any agency of the government can investigate. But we have to deliver the Games and I am sure we will deliver it. Everybody will proud of the Games," he said.
Asked about the e-mail waved to the media by Kalmadi in the last press conference which was reportedly doctored, he said, "When Kalmadi came to address the media we checked with the concerned people who sent the mail and they had proved the authenticity of the e-mails. After that Kalmadi met you people. It is very difficult to disbelieve people working with you. If they say it is correct we believe in it."
Just hours before the Board meeting, Anil Khanna created a flutter by stepping down from the post of the treasurer which was widely interpreted as a move to put pressure on Kalmadi to also resign.
Khanna said he was in no way involved in the contract nor was he the treasurer when the deal was finalised but had taken the step to quit to clear himself from any possible corruption taint. Khanna was among those who had pressed for the board meeting along with vice-chairman Randhir Singh and senior IOA vice-president V K Malhotra.
"I don't want to be seen as somebody associated with corruption or financial malpractices. I joined the OC in January 2010 after Mr Mattoo resigned and by that time the contract was done. So I don't have a conflict of interest in the deal as it was over by December 2009," he said.
Defending himself, Khanna said his son's company, Rebound Ace India, has nothing to do with Rebound Ace Australia which got the contract to lay 14 synthetic surfaces at the R K Khanna Stadium, the venue for the tennis event.
"Rebound Ace India is an absolutely separate company. It is just a distributor of Rebound Ace Australia. It is not a subsidiary nor Rebound Ace Australia has stake in it. My son's company did not get any paisa. So where is the impropriety?" he asked.
The CWG scams also came up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha where the government promised to look into the charges of corruption but ruled out setting up of an apex committee to oversee the Games.
"As far as corruption is concerned, government will take all actions. I will write to the authorities including Finance Minister (and request him) please go seriously into ... if there is anything," Sports Minister M S Gill said.
However, he rejected demand from nominated member Mani Shankar Aiyar for a high-level committee on the lines of the one set up in the country for the 1982 Asian Games, stating "these committees serve nothing." PTI