Deepshikha Chatterjee Chatterjee
Post graduate in literature with an opinion on almost everything. Voracious reader and an avid sports fan.
On a day when Sourav Ganguly highlighted the issues of a comprehensive and viable pay scale to encourage and nurture cricket at a regional level, there is another association which is back in the limelight over accusations of malfeasance. In a scathing audit observation submitted by private firm GS Mathur and Co, large scale misappropriation of funds on the part of Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) has been revealed. The Chartered Accountancy firm was asked to conduct a forensic audit by DDCA Administrator Justice Vikramjit Singh, as reported earlier by The Hindu. The preliminary findings have added further fuel to the fire of corruption allegations that have plagued the DDCA for quite some time now.
In short, it is perfectly clear that the DDCA is not going to come out in the clear any time in the near future. Granted that the latest audit report is merely the result of a preliminary investigation, the fact that it implicates former DDCA President and current Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is quite problematic. Allegations of illegal transactions and misuse of government subsidies, all of which have been doing the rounds in public psyche since 2010, all find a very prominent mention in the report with necessary proof which shows that they are not, in fact, mere allegations.
Overstating expenses by a margin of nearly 500% and a payment of over 1 crore by the DDCA to its counsel for cases outstanding since 2010 can prove to be quite a major problem for the organisation in the long run. Already, there are voices clamouring for the disaffiliation of the DDCA and most of these strong opinions come from former cricketers who are outspokenly committed against clearing cricket of corruption. Names like Kirti Azad and Bishen Singh Bedi stand out. Incidentally, Kirti Azad is a name that has been synonymous with the campaign against DDCA for quite some time now. In September last year, he was suspended from the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party on grounds of “anti-party activities”. His claim to this moniker? Earlier, he had accused Arun Jaitley of illegally laundering money during his stint as the DDCA President starting from 1999.
In 2015, the Delhi Government spurred on by Aam Aadmi party chairperson and then Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal conducted a probe into the DDCA. A three-member committee headed by a Mr Chetan Sanghi was formed for this very purpose. The report by the Sanghi Committee was filed in November 2015 and twenty-two days after that, a Government controlled body registered a case of corruption against the chief investigator. When the groundwork for setting up a Commission of Enquiry to investigate the disparities within the DDCA was set up, another government controlled body promptly issued a case against Kejriwal’s Principal Secretary. Raids were conducted in connection with some of the decisions he had allegedly been a part of during Sheila Dixit’s regime.
At that point, the timing of these raids and charges in question certainly seemed systematic and suspicious. All attempts to set up a cohesive and unshakable wall of proof against the DDCA were marred in quick succession. However, according to a Press release mediated by the AAP based on the findings of the Sanghi Commission, the declarations based on findings by the Sanghi Committee are scathing and damaged.
Here is a time oriented account of all that we know up until now.
The DDCA issued a plea for occupancy of the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium with a request to be able to hold matches at the same. The plea was made to the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. The plea was affirmatively granted at the time. In 2016, the verdict was reserved by the Delhi High Court with added clarification that the R P Mehra block, which falls within 100 metres of a protected monument and thus lacks ASI clearance, was the only sector which was specifically out of bounds.
Several discrepancies regarding the renovation and restructuring of the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium were seen at this point. Engineering Projects Private Limited (EPIL) was awarded the original tender for stadium reconstructions for the amount of Rs 24.26 crores. They were ultimately paid more than double the amount, a little more than Rs 57 crores.
At that point, Chairman of the DDCA Arun Jaitley stated in a letter defending the electoral practices of the DDCA that the only reason that EPIL was awarded the contract in question was so that the financial payments are only made to a public sector company.
As per the public records of 2012, the total amount that was officially accepted and proclaimed as the cost of the aforementioned renovations was Rs 114 crores. The initial budget for the same had been fixed at Rs 24 crores and, evidently, nearly 5 times the estimate had ended up as a part of the expenditure.
Continuing along the controversial matter of the occupancy of Feroz Shah Kotla, Jaitley’s earlier claim that all money for the stadium repairs had been pumped into the public sector were rendered false. In the same fact finding report which was initiated by the AAP, more than Rs 57 crore in cash was found to have been paid to non-public sector companies and that too without any competitive bidding.
The report also found an inconsistency of the amount of Rs 36 crore which the DDCA allegedly laundered by illegally sub letting out Corporate boxes. The Boxes were leased without the approval of the land owners, in this case, the Government of India.
Several cases of age falsifications were also alleged in this very report which hinted at over-age players being allowed to play in school-level state leagues. Incidentally, this is one issue that Bishen Singh Bedi has been quite outspoken against. In an interview to Scroll last year, Bedi quite vehemently attacked the youth system perpetuated by the DDCA.
Another irregularity related to stadium construction is the issue of the lack of a lease for the Feroze Shah Kotla stadium. The DDCA is operating the FerozeshahKotla Stadium under a license from the Ministry of Urban Development paying an annual license fee of approximately Rs. 24.64 lakh. This is basically a huge subsidy which has been provided to the cricketing body for the wholesome promotion of the sport within the regional ranks. The annual lease rent for the stadium works, under normal valuation, works out to more than Rs. 16 crores per annum.
It is evident that a massive subsidy is being afforded to the DDCA at the cost of the exchequer for the purpose of promotion of cricket. As such, the DDCA which is receiving massive subsidies (along with other grants-in-aid)has carried out stadium construction apparently violating rules of corporate fiscal procedures.
The first proceedings of a legislative special inquiry committee were opened to the media and former cricketers like Azad and Bishen Singh Bedi were grilled by a special committee for nearly two hours. This was the fifth such hearing by the committee overall and this included direct attacks by Azad on DDCA’s misappropriation of funds. The year before, AAP’s fact finding committee had already named several proxy companies all of which were allegedly filed under the same account. This made the accusations of money laundering by the DDCA even stronger.
This was also when Justice Mudgal submitted his report on the workings of the Association to the High Court. His findings reiterated the accusations that the much-maligned organisation had already faced in the past. In response, the DDCA Sports Committee removed the selectors that had been appointed by the panel headed by Justice Mudgal.
— Kirti Azad (@KirtiAzadMP) August 2, 2017
The recent audit by GS Mathur and Co largely builds up on the allegations which have threatened the organisation for quite some time now. What is really unsettling about this entire saga is that cricket is one of the most highlighted sports in the country. there are clearly a lot of things wrong with the DDCA starting from its proxy voting system, which is again something that Bishen Singh Bedi has opposed at length. A nondisclosure of its workings and a thorough lack of transparency provide a very cushy spot for incidents of corruption to take place unhindered.
As mentioned before, the recent audit is the result of a preliminary investigation. Despite the fact that this cannot be the comprehensive foundation for any concrete allegation against either Jaitley or any member of the DDCA administrative body. It suffices, however, to say that any chance that the DDCA might have had in clearing its name seems quite bleak right now.
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