Corruption and incompetence are two different issues. But in the staging of the Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi, big-ticket corruption appears to have been deliberately disguised as lower level incompetence and inefficiency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on CWG, presented in Parliament last Friday, is a step-by-step expose of the acts of omission and commission of the Organising Committee headed by Congress Member of Parliament Suresh Kalmadi, of the Delhi government, and of the Prime Minister's Office. The delays in decision-making listed in the report were intended to put pressure on timelines and thereby obtain waivers in laid-down government procedures while awarding contracts for the creation of Games-related infrastructure. As the CAG report points out, many contracts were given on single bids, and some even on nomination basis: “Eliminating competition led to huge avoidable extra burden on the exchequer.” The findings are an indictment of the Delhi government for irregularities and favouritism in the award of contracts and in the appointment of consultants — and of the PMO for rejecting all objections to the appointment of Mr. Kalmadi as chairman of the OC.
Mr. Kalmadi is now in Tihar jail following a CBI investigation and the willful mismanagement of the OC is already the subject of a criminal case. But Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a lot of explaining to do in the light of the CAG revelations. If the Congress were to adopt the standards it demanded of its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in Karnataka, it would have no choice but to show Ms Dikshit the door. After calling for the resignation of B.S. Yeddyurappa as Karnataka Chief Minister following the indictment by the Lokayukta, the party cannot now take refuge in the argument that it is up to the Public Accounts Committee to look into the CAG report. Prime Minister Singh needs to clarify the extraordinary interest shown by the PMO in favouring Mr. Kalmadi. Notwithstanding the current attempts by the Congress to distance itself from the jailed MP, it is evident that he enjoyed the backing of people at the top in the party. Instead of pinning the entire blame on those already caught out, the United Progressive Alliance government should strive to restore the people's confidence in the system. The lesson from CWG 2010 is neatly laid out in the conclusion of the CAG report: “Not only should transparency and fair play be exercised, the public at large should perceive that Government monies have been expended in a fair and transparent manner and officials will be held accountable for lapses.”