Buffeted by allegations of fraud and scams, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) finally began damage control on Thursday. Two heads rolled, while a third voluntarily quit.
In the afternoon, treasurer Anil Khanna, resigned his post following the Hindustan Times report that the firm his son was associated with had been awarded the rights to re-lay the tennis courts for the Games.
In the evening, the OC spokesperson Lalit Bhanot announced that two key officials, M Jayachandran and T S Darbari, had been "suspended pending investigation".
Both had been under the scanner for their roles in alleged financial irregularities in dealings with London firm A M Films during the launch of the Queen's Baton Relay (QBR) last October.
Darbari was joint director general (Chairman Secretariat) in the committee, while Jayachandran was joint director general (Accounts and Finance).
A three-member panel that had been formed by the OC to probe the allegations of financial irregularities recommended the suspension.
Bhanot said another official being probed, Sanjay Mahindroo, was no longer with the OC.
"But the Enforcement Directorate is welcome to probe him too," Bhanot added.
Sources also told HT Ajay Grover, Head (Catering) had quit last week because he found the Games catering programme "a mess". His resignation is apparently yet to be accepted.
Holding an emergency executive board meeting earlier in the day, the OC decided to immediately terminate a multi-crore contract with Singapore based Australian firm Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM), citing its 'non-performance'.
"The agreement with SMAM (to get sponsorship) had targets which included deadlines. They were supposed to raise $122 million by June 30, which they failed to do," said Bhanot.
The OC's contract with SMAM had been widely criticised for allowing SMAM a commission of up to 23 per cent on all deals the OC entered into, including those with public sector units.
Interestingly, OC head Suresh Kalmadi, who did not attend the conference, told Hindustan Times only on Wednesday that the SMAM contract had been amended to allow them only 50 per cent of money they would have otherwise got, if it came from a PSU.
Sacked official's defence
While Mahindroo couldn't be contacted and Jayachandran wouldn't take calls, Darbari told Hindustan Times he was being "hung in a trial by media".
"I am devastated," he said.
"My life, integrity, reputation and a 30-year record of impeccable service have been tarnished by the yellow journalism of a prominent TV channel, which has acted as judge, jury and executioner and been allowed to do so."
He said his role as Joint DG (Chairman Secretariat) during the baton relay was ceremony-related.
"It was one of coordination and conduct of activities. It was not related to hiring or negotiating rates with vendors or logistic support companies. I had no role in disbursement of any finances. There is no supporting documentation or evidence in any minutes of any committee meeting showing that I was either a member or had any role in any financial transaction right through my association with the Queen's Baton Relay activities."
Documents with Hindustan Times relating to the October 23, 2009 meeting of the committee that decided to evaluate the bids and then hire AM Films UK, for the baton relay launch, show three signatures - that of Jayachandran, Mahindroo and Sudhir Verma, the Deputy Director-General (Communications).
Why Khanna quit
Meanwhile, Anil Khanna, also the All India Tennis Association (AITA) secretary, replaced as OC treasurer by former treasurer A K Mattoo, said he quit to dissociate himself from "the scams mentioned in the media over the past few days".
"I don't want to be seen as being close to corruption," he stated. He added he had asked for "an internal checking system".
He said he had written to Kalmadi saying "everybody in the Organising Committee should have a disclosure of interest if they are involved in any financial deals".
He insisted he had already intimated his son's involvement in a disclosure to the AITA.
He also took a thinly-veiled pot-shot at the OC, while referring to his son's firm's role in the court-laying.
"We are talking about Rs 8.5 lakh being paid for a court that will last years. This is not like paying 10 lakh for renting a treadmill for 45 days."