Delhi games chief denies corruption

Chairman denies event is 'an organised looting operation', as India's games become most expensive in history

Claims of shoddy construction in the venues for India's Commonwealth Games emerged on Saturday as the organising committee head denied the latest in a slew of corruption allegations.

With barely two months to go before the Commonwealth Games start in October, the sporting extravaganza has been caught up in a flood of charges of rampant corruption as costs for the event balloon.
 
"I have been deeply pained at the baseless allegations of corruption. It is bad for the morale of the whole country," the chairman of the Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi told a packed news conference in New Delhi.
 
"There is total transparency in the organising committee."
 
Kalmadi added that accusations of poor construction had nothing to do with his committee, after the Games were hit by reports alleging building quality certificates had been faked.
 
"We are not looking at tenders. My job is to organise the Games," he said.
 
An Indian anti-corruption body on Friday reported it had found a host of problems with construction work, including use of poor quality materials and dubious contracts.
 
The chief technical examiner from the Central Vigilance Commission inspected 15 sites around the national capital and found a number of irregularities and suspect practices by contractors and public bodies.
 
The Times of India on Saturday reported that all construction quality certificates inspected so far have turned out to be fake or "suspect."
 
"Fake certificates were routinely issued to pass substandard work and material," an unnamed official of the Central Vigilance Commission, a government watchdog body, was quoted as saying.
 
"We have not yet been able to gauge the financial implication but it is certain to have led to very big gains for vendors and contractors," he said.
 
Troubles for the Games' organisers mounted further on Saturday as India's cash-rich cricket board rejected their appeal for a grant of one billion rupees (22 million dollars) to offset cost over-runs.
 
"The committee expressed its inability to agree to the request of the Commonwealth Games to be the lead partner by donating one billion rupees," the board said in a release.
 
The Indian media also reported the British government had raised questions about suspect sums being transferred from the Games organising committee to a British-based firm and that Indian revenue authorities had begun a probe.
 
The event involving 71 nations is already the costliest Commonwealth Games in history, with an infrastructure and organising budget of $2 billion, although unofficial estimates say the cost will be at least triple.
 
Sports Minister M.S. Gill has said the cost of organising the event -- dubbed the "Shame Games" by leading news magazine India Today -- has risen 17.5 times since the bid was made in 2003.
 
The opposition is demanding a judicial probe into allegations of corruption in construction of the games and has raised fears poor building standards could affect the safety of athletes.
 
Opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Goel said that "forging and fudging of various quality and safety checks has widely thrown open the possibility of mishaps, blackouts and accidents."
 
Veteran regional opposition leader Lalu Prasad Yadav called the Games "an organised looting operation."
 
The corruption charges come with Delhi looking like a giant construction site, with mounds of debris surrounding dug-up roads and walkways across the city as work goes on round-the-clock to get the capital ready.
 
Monsoon rains are making it even harder for work crews while the ground surrounding the complex being built to house athletes is still a sea of mud.
 
The Games were seen as a chance to spotlight India's emerging economic superpower status after the success of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
 
But there is widespread scepticism whether the infrastructure will be ready in time, with critics deriding the preparations as "shambolic."
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