Mission XI Million is the baby of none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. An ambitious project “to create awareness about the FIFA Under-17 World Cup” among at least 11 million school children across the length and breadth of the country “and build a legacy with a vision to make football the sport of choice in India”.
A report by The Tribune reveals that while crores are spent on the programme, the agencies involved would not share the information on where and how the money is spent. The Chandigarh-based newspaper had filed an application under the Right To Information Act. The information is denied on technical ground.
Press Information Bureau of the Government of India had shared on its website the detailed information of the programme on February 10, 2017.
Under the Mission XI Million, PM Modi had entrusted the Sports Ministry, All India Football Federation AIFF and Javier Ceppi-headed Local Organising Committee of the U-17 World Cup to create awareness by September 6, 2017, about the prestigious world football championship in India. The programme had an INR 25 crore budget. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports had contributed INR 12.55 crore towards the project.
The report claims that it’s not clear whether the amount was spent in right earnest by LOC to conduct the MXIM workshops in over 37 cities and 12,000 schools across all 29 States of India.
The newspaper in an RTI application with the Ministry, AIFF and LOC had sought information on the money spent on the MXIM workshops. However, AIFF and LOC refused to part with the information, citing Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act.
The section pertains to the “information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information”.
The AIFF in response to the RTI application had revealed that LOC had outsourced the work on the MXIM project to a private event management agency (name withheld), operating out of Gurugram.
It couldn’t be ascertained as to how the tenders were floated and what the criterion was for awarding the contract to this agency. There are five sanctioning authorities for expenditures in LOC for MXIM — AIFF secretary-general Kushal Das, AIFF head of operations and strategy Kishore Taid, AIFF assistant secretary-general (admin) Col BMR Mehta, U-17 WC tournament director Ceppi and LOC U-17 WC project director Joy Bhattacharjya. Two other persons are also closely involved in the project – programme head Sonia Minocha and LOC marketing head Arup Soans.
“We can confirm that AIFF had signed the agreement entered into with the agency. However, we are unable to provide you with any information… the contents of the said agreement being private and confidential. Disclosure of such content would undoubtedly harm the competitive position of the agency i.e a third party,” read the RTI reply.
The report further questions that what is in the agreement that stopped AIFF from disclosing the information?
The quotes multiple sources in the AIFF as revealing that “ it’s the exorbitant amount allegedly charged by the agency in conducting MXIM workshops that has become LOC’s bane”.
The report suggest that the agency has exorbitantly over charged for every service – from refreshments for the kids during the seminars to videography of the events and power generation set (generator set) rentals. The figures suggest between 100% and 300% over charging on these services.
“Above all, the agency charged a certain percentage as commission on each of the items. For doing a simple recce of a workshop location, it demanded commission from LOC. It’s because of these figures that LOC hasn’t parted with the information. The top people in LOC have the knowledge of what’s happening and how the government money was spent,” the report quotes sources as saying.
“LOC can’t deny the information under Section 2(h)(d) of the RTI Act, which says ‘anybody controlled or substantially financed by the appropriate Government’. The LOC is using the government money,” said a legal source.
The report has raised serious doubts about the conduct of the agencies entrusted with the MXIM.