It blames the I&B Ministry headed by Ambika Soni for delaying tender process

The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has blamed Prasar Bharati (PB) for favouring the British firm SIS Live in the bidding for the Commonwealth Games broadcasting deal – and then amending the draft contract to allow SIS Live to “outsource almost the entire contract on the same day” to Indian firm Zoom Communications.

The CAG also points fingers at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, headed by Ambika Soni, for delaying the tender process and thus leaving itself with no options except to agree with the Prasar Bharati's recommendations favouring SIS Live.

Most of these allegations have already been framed by the V.K. Shunglu Committee appointed by the Prime Minister. However, while the Shunglu panel singled out then-Prasar Bharati CEO B.S. Lalli and then-Doordarshan Director-General Aruna Sharma for causing a loss of Rs. 135 crore, the CAG does not name these individuals or any specific loss amount.

In its section on the Media and Broadcasting Services, the CAG's voluminous report on the Games held in October 2010 says the award of the contract was flawed on several grounds.

Lack of competition

To start with, “lack of competition was facilitated by a rigid stand taken by the PB at the stage of bidding, which restricted potential competitors…leaving only one ‘chosen' bidder,” says the report. However, after SIS Live won the deal by virtue of being the sole bidder, the PB then went on to amend the contract to “make it one-sided in favour of the SIS Live.” Among the important amendments include the change of payment schedule, allowing a pre-Games payment of 60 per cent instead of 40 per cent of the contract.

Also, the draft contract was amended to allow SIS Live to use “sub-contractors” such as Zoom Communications which went on to do the bulk of the work, but would not have been eligible to bid for the contract itself. The CAG report says this meant SIS Live was “acting essentially as a conduit” enabling the “back-door entry of Zoom”.

The CAG also blames the oversight team, noting that the Host Broadcast Management Committee was marred by “conflicts of opinion.” “Of the 40 meetings for which minutes are available, only two are signed by all members. Objections to contract amendments were ignored.”

In fact, both I&B Minister Ambika Soni and Law Minister Veerappa Moily, who chaired the Oversight Committee together, did intervene, saying that changing the payment schedule should be re-considered. However, their intervention “did not have any lasting effect”, notes the CAG.

No alternative

This was largely due to lack of time, according to a letter from I&B Secretary Raghu Menon. The Ministry was “left with no alternative but to accede to the demands (of SIS Live), since non-telecast would be a matter of international embarrassment,” says the report.

In a double blow for Prasar Bharati, the CAG's report on the autonomous body itself also blames it for causing the loss of revenue of Rs. 1.8 crore by not allotting two vacant slots of its DTH platform despite 38 pending requests.

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