Social forum SpeakGoa has accused the Manohar Parrikar-led government in Goa of overlooking and turning a blind-eye to over Rs 5 crore of bribes, kickbacks and other freebees which were given out as largesse to various government and police officials, including MLAs and others in positions of power to enable the event to go on “smoothly”. Without naming anyone specifically, SpeakGoa through a press release issued on Thursday said, “We have been investigating the loss of revenue to the State of Goa through our own limited sources and with the available data from various government departments. It is very evident that over Rs 5 core of bribes, kickbacks and “gifts” were given to various government officials, government departments including the police and other enforcement agencies to turn a blind eye and ensure that the organizers were not pulled up on any minor or major counts at the last moment or while the event was in progress.
Earlier independent Fatorda MLA and convener of the Goemkar movement Vijai Sardesai, had alleged that about Rs 2.5 crore of Sunburn tickets were allegedly sold in black, marked as complimentary or free passes thus avoiding entertainment tax on them. Sardesai has been harping all along that several top ranking officials, including those from the Tourism Ministry and the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), alleging that government and police officials including MLAs got huge paybacks and bribes.
According to the SpeakGoa press release, Harinder Singh Managing Director of Percept had openly claimed in writing that the maximum numbers of free passes were given out and the increase in the number of free passes was over 200 per cent this year (2012). SpeakGoa has alleged that free passes given to the Tourism Department for distribution to celebrities and other prominent citizens of Goa were sold in black and even at lower rates than the official rates on the last day in full view of entertainment tax and corporate tax officials. The Commissionerate of Commercial Taxes (CCT) deployed only 8-10 inspectors. There should have been at least 300 inspectors to catch touts red-handed given that there was a crowd of over 5 lakh persons in the vicinity of the event and in the Candolim area on the last day of the event. According to SpeakGoa, “Eyewitnesses say that there were about 80 to 100 touts selling passes in black quite openly. The government very well knows that there is a huge black marketing of passes during such events, very often by the organizers themselves. What steps were taken to prevent this and how many touts were arrested?”
SpeakGoa has alleged that Rs 90 lakh to Rs 110 lakh worth of tickets were sold in the “free or complimentary category” on the last day alone, and were sold unofficially in black outside the event venue. No entertainment tax was paid on these tickets and the state lost valuable revenue. Earlier during the event, Sandesh Prabhudesai of HCN TV had claimed that there was almost 90 per cent of tax evasion by the organizers of Sunburn and the state of Goa lost about Rs 10.3 crore in 2011. In 2012 the news channel claimed that the tax collected should have been in the range of Rs 30 crore. SpeakGoa has alleged that the state exchequer lost about Rs 13 crore at the minimum this year due to tax evasion and black-marketing of complimentary passes. “Our estimates of the crowd at the event after speaking to hundreds of eye witnesses and people who attended the event shows beyond doubt that the State should have got at least Rs 13 crore in entertainment tax,” the SpeakGoa spokesperson has alleged.