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CWG Investigations: What is being done?

November 19th, 2010 No comments

The 2010 Commonwealth Games may have ended on October 14th, but the controversy surrounding the organising of the games is far from over. In Parliament, the Opposition has called for a Joint-Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to be formed to investigate suspected financial irregularities in the organising of the Games[1]. In a statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports M.S. Gill commented that “All irregularities will be examined and the guilty will not be spared”[2].

In July 2010, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) found irregularities in 14 Games related construction projects[3]. It has been reported that officials from the CVC now believe total misappropriation of Games Funds could be between Rs 5000 crore and Rs 8000 crore [4]. So what is being done about it?

Currently, six different government organisations are conducting independent inquiries into financial irregularities, corruption, and mismanagement of the Games: the High Level (Shunglu) Commission, CVC, CAG, CBI, Income Tax Department, and Enforcement Directorate (ED).  With so many government organisations involved, it can be difficult to decipher the big picture. Here is a breakdown of what each organisation is doing:

High Level Commission (Shunglu Commission): The Commission was appointed by the Prime Minister on October 15th[5]. It is chaired by V.K. Shunglu, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who has been given the status equivalent to a Supreme Court Judge[6]. The Commission has a broad mandate to investigate all matters regarding the Games, specifically:[7]

  • Roles and responsibilities of signatories to Host City Contract
  • Planning and execution of development projects and contracts
  • Effectiveness of organisational structure and governance for agencies involved
  • Managerial weaknesses
  • All financial aspects of the event, including wrongdoing
  • Coordination issues amongst agencies
  • Role of advisors and consultants to Organising Committee
  • Overall impact of the games
  • Lessons learnt for the future

A report from the Commission detailing its findings is expected by mid January.

Central Vigilance Commission (CVC): The CVC first found financial irregularities in 14 Games projects in July 2010.  Subsequently, it asked the CBI to register a corruption case against MCD officials in connection with a tender issued for a Games project[8]. In total, the CVC has found irregularities in 38 games related projects, under the following departments and agencies:[9]

  • Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports: 6
  • Delhi Development Authority: 6
  • Public Works Department: 6
  • Municipal Corporation of Delhi: 5
  • Central Public Works Department: 4
  • Organising Committee: 3
  • New Delhi Municipal Council: 3
  • Government of Delhi: 2
  • Department of Commerce: 1
  • Indian Meteorological Department: 1
  • RITES: 1

The CVC has directed the above agencies to respond to queries regarding the irregularities and has directed the CBI to begin a Preliminary Inquiry into them [10]. The CVC will report its findings to the Shunglu Commission.

Income Tax Department: The I-T Department is investigating tenders and awards of contracts for Games related works, as well as tax evasion [11]. It has conducted raids in offices of over 30 business firms and individuals [12].

Enforcement Directorate (ED): The ED is proceeding against Organising Committee officials for violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for projects involving venue development and overlays contracts awarded by the Organising Committee.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): It has been reported that the CBI had received over 300 complaints of corruption in Games projects by August 2010[13]. It is verifying these claims and investigating matters highlighted by the CVC.

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG): In August 2009, the CAG published a report entitled Preparedness for the XIX Commonwealth Games highlighting the lack of preparedness for the Games and its escalating cost.  The CAG is conducting a detailed audit of the Games that is expected to be published in March 2011[14]. Given that CAG reports are tabled in Parliament, the March 2011 report will be critical to the Parliamentary debate on the Games.

Two members of the Organising Committee, the Joint Director and the Deputy Director General, were arrested by the CBI this past Monday.  However, Given that the report of the Shunglu Commssion is due in January 2011, the CAG audit will follow two months later, and the current Opposition demand for a JPC remains unresolved, it may be some time before significant details are made public.


[1] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/BJP-to-press-for-JPC-probe-into-spectrum-Adarsh-CWG-scams/articleshow/6934697.cms

[2] http://www.thehindu.com/news/article890174.ece

[3] ttp://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/et-cetera/CVC-finds-irregularities-in-several-CWG-projects/articleshow/6229429.cms

[4] http://www.deccanherald.com/content/105830/cwg-fraud-may-touch-rs.html

[5] http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/games-over-pm-orders-probe-into-pre-event-mess/411739/

[6] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/CWG-probe-Shunglu-given-status-of-SC-judge/articleshow/6818404.cms

[7] http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=66561

[8] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/CWG-construction-CVC-asks-CBI-to-register-corruption-case/articleshow/6237714.cms

[9] http://www.hindustantimes.com/specials/sports/cwg-2010/22-more-CWG-works-under-CVC-scanner/CWG2010-TopStories/SP-Article10-614446.aspx

[10] http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Claiming-fraud—favour-in-Games-rentals–CVC-to-CBI–begin-probe/700998/

[11]http://www.indianexpress.com/news/it-dept-collects-cwg-works-related-documents/698683/

[12] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article837892.ece

[13] http://www.indianexpress.com/news/cbi-has-over-300-complaints-regarding-games-works/655692/

[14] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/CAG-starts-Commonwealth-Games-audit-report-by-March-2011/articleshow/6252852.cms

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The Companies Bill, 2009

November 16th, 2010 3 comments

All companies are currently governed by the Companies Act, 1956. The Act has been amended 24 times since then. Three committees were formed in the last ten years, chaired by Justice V B Eradi (2001), Naresh Chandra (2002) and J J Irani (2005) to look into various aspects of corporate governance and company law. The Companies Bill, 2009 incorporates some of these recommendations.

Main features
The major themes of the Bill are as follows: It moves a number of issues that are currently specified in the Act (and its schedules) to the Rules; this change will make the law more flexible, as changes can be made through government notification, and would not require an amendment bill in Parliament. On a number of issues, the Bill moves the onus of oversight towards shareholders and away from the government. It also requires a super-majority of 75 percent shareholder votes for certain decisions. The powers of creditors have been enhanced in cases where a company is in financial distress. It has new provisions regarding independent directors and auditors in order to strengthen corporate governance. Finally, the bill increases penalties, and provides for special courts.

Types of companies
The Bill provides for six types of companies. Public companies need to have at least seven shareholders, and private companies between two and 50 shareholders. Charitable companies should have at least one shareholder, may have only certain specified objectives, and may not distribute dividend. Three new types of companies have been defined, which have less stringent provisions. These are one-person companies, small companies (private companies with capital less than Rs 50 million and turnover below Rs 200 million), and dormant companies (formed for future projects, or no operations for two years).

Corporate Governance
The Bill defines the duties of directors and norms for composition of boards. The number of directors is capped at 12. At least one director should be resident in India for at least 183 days in a calendar year and at least a third of the board should consist of independent directors. The Bill also sets guidelines for auditors. Certain related persons such as creditors, debtors, shareholders and guarantors cannot be appointed as auditors. Certain services such as book-keeping, internal audit and management services may not be undertaken by the auditors. Removal of an auditor before completion of term requires approval of 75 percent of the shareholders.

Adjudication
The Bill provides for a National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to adjudicate disputes between companies and their stakeholders. It also establishes an Appellate Tribunal. The NCLT may ask the government to investigate the working of a company on an application made by 100 shareholders or those who hold 10 percent of the voting power.

Arrangements
All arrangements such as mergers, takeovers, debt split, share splits and reduction in share capital must be approved by 75 percent of creditors or shareholders, and sanctioned by the NCLT.

Standing Committee’s Recommendations
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance has submitted its report, and suggested several significant amendments.

Corporate governance
Substantive matters covered in various corporate governance guidelines should be contained in the Bill. These include: separation of offices of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; limiting the number of companies in which an individual may become director; attributes for independent directors; appointment of auditors.

Delegated legislation
The Committee noted that the Bill provided excessive scope for delegated legislation. Several substantive provisions were left for rule-making and the Ministry was asked to reconsider provisions made for excessive delegated legislation.

The Ministry has agreed to make some changes to include the following provisions in the Act: the definition of small companies; the manner of subscribing names to the Memorandum of Association; the format of Memorandum of Association to be prescribed in the Schedule; the manner of conducting Extraordinary General Meetings; documents to be filed with the Registrar of Companies.

The Committee recommended that provisions relating to independent directors in the Bill should be distinguished from other directors. There should be a clear expression of their mode of appointment, qualifications, extent of independence from management, roles, responsibilities, and liabilities. The Committee also recommended that the appointment process of independent Directors should be made independent of the company’s management. This should be done by constituting a panel to be maintained by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, out of which companies can choose their requirement of independent directors.

Investor protection
The Ministry, in response to the Committee’s concerns for ensuring protection of small investors and minority shareholders, indicated new proposals. These include: enhanced disclosure requirements at the time of incorporation; shareholder’s associations/groups enabled to take legal action in case of any fraudulent action by the company; directors of a company which has defaulted in payment of interest to depositors to be disqualified for future appointment as directors.

The Ministry also made some suggestions on protection of minority shareholders/small investors, which the Committee accepted, including the source of promoter’s contribution to be disclosed in the Prospectus; stricter rules for bigger and solvent companies on acceptance of deposits from the public; return to be filed with Registrar in case of promoters/top ten shareholders stake changing beyond a limit.

Corporate Delinquency
Recommendations include: subsidiary companies not to have further subsidiaries; main objects for raising public offer should be mentioned on the first page of the prospectus; tenure of independent director should be provided in law; the office of the Chairman and the Managing Director/CEO should be separated. The Committee emphasised that the procedural defaults should be viewed in a different perspective from fraudulent practices.

Shareholder democracy
The Committee recommended that the system of proxy voting should be discontinued. It also stated that the quorum for company meetings should be higher than the proposed five members, and should be increased to a reasonable percentage.

Foreign companies
The Bill requires foreign companies having a place of business in India and with Indian shareholding to comply with certain provisions in the proposed Bill. The Committee observed that the Bill does not clearly explain the applicability of the Bill to foreign companies incorporated outside India with a place of business in India. It recommended that all such foreign companies should be brought within the ambit of the chapter dealing with foreign companies.

Next steps
The report of the Standing Committee indicates that the Ministry has accepted many of its recommendations. It is likely that the government will take up the Bill for consideration and passing during the winter session, which starts on 9th November.

This article was published in PRAGATI on November 1, 2010

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