Shunglu panel finds Prasar Bharati contracts arbitrary, PMO warns stern action (Roundup)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Shunglu Committee said in its first report Tuesday that Commonwealth Games contracts were awarded by public broadcaster Prasar Bharati abrbitrarily “without ensuring reasonable rates and overruling suggestions”. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) warned of “stern action” against the named officials.

“Most of the decisions to award the inflated bids were taken by Director General of the Doordarshan (Aruna Sharma) and the chief executive officer (B.S. Lalli) despite strong contrary view,” the Shunglu report said.

“Contracts were awarded by Prasar Bharati without ensuring reasonable rates and overruling suggestions,” the committee said in its report.

The first stand-alone report of the committee also noted that Prasar Bharati sanctioned highly inflated bills for the host broadcasting of the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi in October 2010.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), meanwhile, said it has taken a “serious view” on the report and will take “stern action” on it.

The report indicted Lalli and Aruna Sharma for allegedly causing Rs.135 crore loss to the exchequer in awarding the host broadcasting rights to a British firm, SIS Live. The SIS Live, in turn, sub-contracted the work to an Indian firm, Zoom Communications, at a lower rate, the report pointed out.

“The prime minister has taken a serious view of the findings of the first report of the Shunglu Committee on host broadcasting,” a PMO statement said.

“The report has been sent to the cabinet secretary (K.M. Chandrasekhar). Stern action is likely to be taken on the basis of the cabinet secretary’s recommendations,” the statement added.

The PMO also said that Chandrasekhar has been asked to submit his report within a week with his “considered recommendation on follow-up steps”.

V.K. Shunglu, a former comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India, was appointed to head a committee to probe allegations of corruption in the conduct of the CWG. Shantanu Consul, a former union government secretary, is the second member of the panel.

The Shunglu report said: “There were deliberate delays in following schedules, creating emergency situations leaving virtually no option for re-tender or for exploring other competitive avenues in the face of high rates quoted”.

“Acts of omission and commission, including suppression of critical information necessary for informed decisions, undue favours to service providers, inappropriate changes in contractual terms and terms and conditions and false recording of minutes by key functionaries were also observed,” the report added.

“The committee is of the opinion that the decision to outsource the entire work (to SIS Live) was motivated. This not only cost the exchequer higher expenditure avoidable higher expenditure but also deprived Doordarshan the opportunity to acquire the latest broadcasting skills,” the report said.

“A clear nexus between SIS Live, Zoom Communications and elements of Prasar Bharati was apparent from the sequence of events,” the Shunglu committee said.

The report said there were efforts to award the host broadcasting rights to the SIS during the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in 2008.

“The tender process was discharged (in the Youth Games) as the central vigilance commission had found the eligibility criteria flawed,” the report pointed out.

More reports on other contracts and conduct of the Games is to be submitted by the Shunglu Committee by March 31, official sources told IANS.

The Oct 3-14, 2010 CWG in Delhi had become a subject of controversies after allegations of corruption in the construction of the infrastructure and conduct of the Games were reported by the media on the basis of preliminary CAG reports.

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