In yet another example of brazening out corruption allegations, Wednesday saw full-page advertisements in bold headlines providing the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee’s justification on various expenses incurred before and during the sporting extravaganza.
With three independent investigating agencies probing the Organising Committee (OC’s) shenanigans to get at the truth, sources reveal that within a few hours of being removed from the post of Secretary, Congress Parliamentary Party on Tuesday, Suresh Kalmadi, the embattled chairman of the Games OC gave his nod to a very expensive media campaign — all in an effort to repair his tarnished public image.
Sources confirmed that it cost the OC R23 lakh to place ads in all the leading papers of the Capital and that, after judging the response, they might come up with a second one in some time.
Kalmadi, who left for Guangzhou in China on Wednesday to attend the Asian Games, was unavailable for comment. The communications chief of the OC, though, said the exercise was in public interest.
"We wanted the people to know the truth. A lot of false news was doing the rounds and was confusing everyone," said Priya Singh Paul, additional director general, communications, OC.
"The OC had nothing to do with any infrastructure or construction projects."
The huge advertisement, named "Special Report on CWG", the OC said that R620.51 crore — around one-third of its total budget of R1,813 crore — was paid to various government agencies in taxes and as payments for goods and services procured from them.
"It (the ad) cleverly wants to give the impression that much of the government’s money has gone back to the government," said a senior OC official, on condition of anonymity.
The ad also clarifies that many of the top officials, including the chief executive officer and many special director general and additional director general were, in fact, government appointees.
Sources said that a section of the OC brass was against the idea of launching a media campaign and spending public money at a time when official investigations were on.
"This looked like a last ditch attempt at drawing the attention of the Congress top bosses," he said.
The OC has earlier sought a budget of R1,620 crore but escalated it and sought R200 crore more from the government.
While Kalmadi had assured the government of returning every penny through revenue and making the Games "revenue neutral", the ad said that only R674 crore could be raised, "despite the negative publicity". Various payments of atleast R400 crore are still pending.
The ad did not go into the contentious overlays contracts, which cost R680 crore over and above the R1,813 crore general budget. It did, however, clarify that treadmills, cross-trainers, air-conditioners, refrigerators, ice-making machines, air fresheners, mosquito repellents and printers were not procured as overlays — contrary to reports in some sections of the media.