GUWAHATI, Jan 18 – The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), while releasing its report ‘India’s Funds to NGOs Squandered’, stated that the Government of India’s funding to the tune of hundred of crores to voluntary organizations was a scam and was in dire need of reform, as the audit by CAG was “infrequent, inadequate and does not include the NGOs.” Citing information obtained from RTI replies, the ACHR said that the scale of the grants to NGOs was at least Rs 1,000 crore per year, and that the Central Government ministries and the State governments provided at least Rs. 6654,35,87,684 as grants to NGOs/VOs during FYs 2002-2003 to 2008-2009 or an average of Rs 950,62,26,812 every year. This includes Rs 4756,71,26,395 given by the Central government and Rs 1,897,64,61,289 by the State governments.
“The figure of Rs. 6654.36 crore of funds given to NGOs is only indicative and not accurate. First, a number of States have failed to provide information about the grants given to NGOs. Second, many departments of the State governments and Union Territories (UTs) which replied did not provide full information,” the ACHR report said.
It added that the Central government ministries provided much less figures under the RTI applications in comparison to information placed before the Parliament (both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha). Besides, little information was made available with respect to many flagship programmes, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Again, many of the government-owned public sector undertakings did not provide information about the funds given to the NGOs as part of the corporate social responsibility and therefore, not included in this study, Suhas Chakma, director of ACHR said.
According to information obtained under the RTI applications, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment topped the list amongst the Central ministries/departments in providing grants to NGOs/VOs with Rs 1,460 crore during 2002-2003 to 2008-2009, followed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development with Rs 950 crore, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with Rs 578 crore, Ministry of Rural Development with Rs 363 crore, Ministry of Tribal Affairs with Rs 343 crore, Ministry of Human Resource Development with Rs 250 crore, Ministry of Science and Technology with Rs 151 crore , Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports with Rs. 125 crore and Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and North Eastern Council (NEC) with Rs 11 crore, among others.
The report further stated that the selection procedure for the grantees lacked transparency. “All the ministries claim that applications are selected on the basis of merit. But how that merit is determined is unclear. In reality, merit matters little. There is a mandatory requirement of recommendations from the State governments which facilitates corruption. In overwhelming majority of the cases only those voluntary organizations which are close to the government officials or those who have control over the officials/NGOs i.e. political leaders are selected,” it said.
Field studies by the ACHR suggest that selection of grantees was often determined not on ability or technical expertise but rather on the applicant’s ability to pay a bribe. The NGOs interviewed by the ACHR alleged that to have their application approved required bribes amounting to 15 per cent to 30 per cent of the grant.
“If a conservative estimate of 15 per cent is used as a ‘bribe to process the applications’, during the Fiscal Years 2002-2003 to 2008-2009 at least Rs. 1000 crore have been spent on bribes paid to different layers of officials for approval of the projects,” it said, adding that the estimated Rs 1,000 crore bribes must be seen in the context of the CAG Report No.17 of 2010-2011 pertaining to audit of transactions and performance in the Ministry of Environment and Forest in which the CAG concluded that 7,916 utilization certificates (UCs) from the grantees for grants worth Rs 596.79 crore from 1981-2009 were not obtained under the scheme of grants-in-aid to voluntary agencies.
“The CAG concluded that the possibility of misutilization/fraud is not ruled out as majority of VAs/State Forest Departments /Forest Development Associations neither came back to the National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB) for the next installment after release of first installment nor did they furnish UCs/progress reports,” Chakma said.