Commonwealth Games: Bids rigged, costs hiked and quality sacrificed
Games edifice is crumbling under thickening suspicions of corruption and
inefficiency, with the CVC referring one of the several cases of
corruption bedeviling the event to the CBI.
The case handed over to the CBI is breathtaking in terms of brazenness: the the successful bidder who got the contract after quoting the lowest amount was allegedly allowed to tamper with figures post-auction so that he could rake in more money than he had initially hoped for. But this is not the only one that may be headed the CBI's way.
As more evidence surfaces of use of sub-standard material, rigging of bids, goldplating and sanctioning of projects which were not needed at all and favouritism in selection of successful contractors, the investigating agencies are going to have their hands full.
The number of works under the CVC scanner has now risen to 16 with revenue implication of more than Rs 2,500 crore. Chances of fresh additions to the "work load" are rated high.
The vigilance body has already confirmed the widely held suspicion: that of an officer-engineer-contractor nexus which has minted money by delaying the award of contracts till the last minute so that an alibi could be found to jack up cost and assign the work to "favourites".
Almost half of the 16 projects probed by the CVC relate to stadium upgradation and other sports infrastructure, the rest being construction of flyovers, road widening and beautification works.
The apex anti-corruption institution has sought criminal prosecution against MCD officials allegedly involved in tampering with a bid document relating to the upgradation of street lighting on roads in Delhi. According to the CVC probe, the bid papers were tampered with and changes were made in the bidding amount taking it closer to the nearest rival so that profit margins could be jacked up.
The probe revealed the private bidder, allegedly in collusion with MCD officials, tampered "either by cutting or overwriting" in the price quoted in the bid with the new amount. The total contract awarded to this bidder was to the tune of Rs 35 crore and the changes made by him accrued him a benefit of over Rs 3.6 crore. The CVC probe has found that almost all the organisations executing works for the Commonwealth Games — PWD, MCD, NDMC, CPWD and DDA — have "considered inadmissible factors to jack up costs". Higher costs have been justified by citing "urgent and emergent circumstances".
The CVC report says that despite the higher rates, poor site management, delays and quality compromises have been observed in all the projects for which technical examination has been carried out. Items not on the bid papers were incorporated and accounted for at a higher price in many of the projects. The report says contractors failed to give any "logical reasoning for the exorbitant prices" they incorporated in their project costs.
You may be considering why all street corners and footpaths have been dug up. Here is a CVC take on that: "Almost all the agencies have taken up the work of streetscaping, especially kerb stone and footpath tiles, without ascertaining the need for such upgradation."
"The main purpose of aesthetics could not be achieved due to poor quality control, lack of supervision and coordination in executing these works," the anti-corruption watchdog has said in its findings.
In some of the concrete samples tested for their strength, the CVC technical team observed that 12 samples failed to meet 28 days' strength test. "Concrete core samples taken from the already laid slabs failed to meet the requirement of strength during testing at an independent outside laboratory," the CVC observed, adding that the cement content in the test checks were found much less than prescribed and claimed to have been used.
The report blames the supervising civic agency concerned for alleged collusion in forging of testing records. The quality of anti-corrosive treatment on reinforcement steel was also found poor during the technical examination.