Canberra joins the Delhi Games cash dispute

As if the ongoing allegations of corruption and favouritism were not enough, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CWGOC) of Delhi 2010 is embroiled in another controversy involving a number of Australian firms claiming unpaid or underpaid invoices.

The total amount at stake is a paltry $A3 million or less but the Committee maintains that the companies concerned had either breached their contractual obligations or did not perform the entrusted jobs to its satisfaction.

The matter became an embarrassment as Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd broached the subject with India’s External Affairs Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna during the latter’s visit last week.

We do not have details of the transactions but our contacts across the Tasman said that the overdue payments related to opening and closing ceremonies of ‘Delhi 2010’ held from October 3 to 14, 2010.

Melbourne’s Age quoted a spokesman for the Law firm Slater & Gordon as saying that it was representing Ric Birch of Spectak Productions (which organised fireworks at the opening and closing ceremonies) to launch a class action in a bid to recover about $A350, 000.

Spectak has been involved in major international events including the Olympic Games held in Beijing (2008), Sydney (2000), Barcelona (1992) and Los Angeles (1984).

Howard & Sons, a pyrotechnics company has claimed $A300, 000 in settlement, in addition about $A900, 000 as compensation for equipment held up in India.

Andrew Howard, the Company’s Director, said he has been contacting the CWOC since October 2010 but there was no settlement in sight.

“Apart from not settling the outstanding amount, the Committee did not arrange import and export documentation. This resulted in ‘huge logistical issues,’ with equipment required for projects in Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East between November 2010 and January 2011,” he said.

Australian sound company Norwest Productions is owed about $A1 million.

Claims repudiated

CWOC officials have thus far repudiated the claims saying that they had settled all outstanding invoices and that those under dispute related to under-performance and non-compliance of contracts.

They said the companies had not satisfactorily responded to their queries.

“The Australian Commonwealth Games Association and similar associations throughout the Commonwealth are also yet to receive promised travel subsidy payments running into hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the Age said.

Ajay Maken, who was appointed Sports Minister on January 20, promised a swift review of the matter.

“I have directed government nominees on the Committee to thoroughly verify unpaid dues and make all the legitimate payments within 10 days,” he said.

But his promise was somewhat scotched by the Commonwealth Games officials.

According to CWOGC Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, who is currently under investigation on charges of corruption and other irregularities, said that his Executive Board had withheld payments on December 14, 2010.

“Spectak Productions has received 85% of contracted payments. There are issues pending because of under-performance raised by creative director Bharat Bala. There have been instances of incorrect advice, costing the Committee’s time and resources,” Mr Kalmadi said.

None of these appeared to have convinced the Australian companies, their law firms and most of all the Australian Federal Government.

Mr Rudd raised the issue with Mr Krishna during official talks in Melbourne, clearly to his embarrassment.

The extent of the problem was not lost on the Media.

Facing a barrage of questions during a media conference in Melbourne, Mr Krishna said he would pursue the issue with Mr Maken.

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