The Organised Looting Games

One of the UK’s best-known staging companies has become embroiled in the fuss surrounding the escalating cost of this year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The Observer claims London-based ES Group, which has recently worked with Madonna, Elton John, Rihanna and Green Day, is part of a consortium accused of charging inflated prices, including for £500 sinks and £61,920 worth of liquid soap dispensers.

The Games have been dogged by a growing number of stories about financial scandals, prompting Indian politician Lalu Prasad Yadav to describe the event as “an organised looting operation.”

Allegations regarding UK-based companies will likely cast media spotlight on the tendering process for the London Olympics in 2012, when British taxpayers’ money will be involved.

The London launch of the Queen’s Baton relay, the traditional curtain-raiser to the Commonwealth Games, is already under investigation after the contract was handed over without tender or competition.

The Observer said it’s seen documents that show ES Group Arena JV, a joint venture between ES and the UK’s Cambridgeshire-based Arena Group, sold the Games’ organizers 360 tissue paper dispensers at £64 each, 176 rubbish bins at £104 each, and 20 sinks at £501 a pop.

It also said the ES company has already earned £61,920 for supplying liquid soap dispensers at £129 each, and claimed other tendering documents show that rival contract bidders could have supplied all the goods at much cheaper prices.

The Delhi Organising committee issued a statement to The Times Of India saying the venues were divided into seven clusters depending on geographical location and that there was “a transparent bidding process.”

It said the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder in each cluster, based on “the lowest overall cost.” It also said the apparent pricing irregularities with the soap dispensers could have depended on whether the supplier was providing the soap.

Asked if the ES-Arena joint venture is tendering for work at the London Olympics, company head of sales and marketing Liz Madden told Pollstar, “Any work we are tendering for, whether for 2012 or not, is confidential.”

Under the name of ESAJV D Art Indo, the ES-Arena partnership was one of four companies to win contracts to fit out Commonwealth Games venues with non-permanent facilities. It sealed a £20 million deal to service three of them, plus a temporary stadium for rugby and 18 training facilities.

The bill for the Games has already shot up from £260 million to £1.4 billion, which has been coupled with growing accusations of corruption, nepotism and shoddy work by contractors.

“The prestige of the nation is involved,” said India’s ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, who has threatened to take action against the culprits.

Allegations of corruption have surrounded the games for weeks and two senior officials have resigned and a third has been suspended.

The Indian government’s anti-corruption agency says there have been irregularities at 16 of the Commonwealth venues.