Stepping in amid questions over Commonwealth Games preparations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday gave overriding powers to a committee headed by Cabinet Secretary, bringing into its ambit the Organising Committee that has been tainted by corruption charges.
Observing that there have been 'slippages' in time schedules and deficiencies noticed, Singh directed that thorough probe should be held by the ministries concerned into complaints of 'procedural and other irregularities' and 'those found guilty should face severe and exemplary punishment.'
He instructed that all pending works should be completed expeditiously in a time-bound manner and decided to visit select venues of the Games in the last week of this month.
Singh reviewed preparations for the October event at a meeting with Union ministers concerned, Delhi Lt Governor Tejender Khanna, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar and Home Secretary G K Pillai against the backdrop of intense controversies surrounding the conduct of the event.
"The Committee of Secretaries will continue to review implementation and it will have the status of an Empowered Committee. It will have jurisdiction over matters relating to the Organising Committee," said a PMO statement after the 90-minute meeting.
The decision to bring OC in the ambit of Committee of Secretaries is significant as questions have been raised over the functioning of the Organising Committee and charges of corruption against its top brass, including Kalmadi.
"A secretary-level officer of the Cabinet Secretariat will liaise with the Organising Committee on a daily basis," the statement said.
The cabinet secretary was also directed to liaise closely with the Group of Ministers, which is already in place, to ensure 'effective coordination' among all the authorites concerned.
The GoM, headed by Union Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, was empowered to take all decisions necessary for the smooth conduct of the games and refer any matter that may require further consideration to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for a final decision.
The GoM was directed to meet immediately and frequently thereafter, the PMO statement said.
"All the facilities must meet international standards," the Prime Minister underlined and expressed confidence that the ongoing preparations supervised directly the GoM would enable the games to be conducted smoothly and in a befitting manner.
The Cabinet will be briefed on the state of preparations on a weekly basis. The Organising Committee would take appropriate steps urgently to conclude all pending preparations.
The Senior Management Committee would meet daily and be chaired by the CEO in the absence of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman, Organising Committee.
Additional senior and experienced officers from the central government would be deputed as required. Singh asked all concerned to work single-mindedly so that the Games could be held in a manner the nation could be justifiably proud of.
Noting that the eyes of the world were on India with regard to the Games, he said that in the run up to the event, it was important to gain public confidence by instilling order and carrying out effective supervision of the preparation works.
The public has a right to know the facts and the GoM will ensure that timely and authentic information on the status of preparations and in particular on the remaining tasks at hand is released to the public.
The promotional campaign of the various events should be stepped up to generate enthusiasm among sports-lovers in the largest sporting event the country has held in many years.