In its report ‘India’s Funds to NGOs Squandered’, Asian Centre for Human Rights alleges that the Union and State governments give yearly grants worth Rs.1,000 crore to various NGOs.
The report 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.”
As per the replies by central and state governments to RTI pleas filed by ACHR, , the Central Ministries and the State governments provided at least Rs. 6,654.35 crore as grants to NGOs and voluntary organisations between 2002-03 and 2008-09 . This includes Rs 4756,71,26,395 given by the Central government and Rs 1,897,64,61,289 by the State governments.
It adds that the centre and states/union territories such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep failed to provide information about the grants given to NGOs.
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 ACHR suggest that selection of grantees is 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% to 30% of the grant.
“If a conservative estimate of 15% is used as a “bribe to process the applications”, during the Fiscal Years 2002-2003 to 2008-2009 at least Rs. 998,15,38,153 or Rs. 142,59,34,022 per year were spent on “bribes” to different layers of officials approving the projects. This is literally stealing the money of the India’s poorest. It will not be an understatement that funding to voluntary sector is largely decided by bribes and political influence,” the report said.
The report shows that the Council for the Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology, an autonomous description under the Union rural development ministry, released Rs 46.8 lakh in 2009 to five NGOs it had blacklisted in 2007. The five are: Nirmala Weaker Section (Andhra), Sarvodaya Ashram (Bihar), Magadh Social Development Society (Bihar), Pazhakulam Social Service Society (Kerala) and Vijay Warangal Trust (Maharashtra).
The Union women and child development ministry continued to give Rs 110 crore annually to three NGOs it had banned in 2006. These are the Central Social Welfare Board, Indian Council of Child Welfare and the Bharatiya Adim Jati Sewak Sangh.
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.
Nonetheless according to information obtained under the RTI applications, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) topped the list amongst the Central Ministries/Departments in providing grants to NGOs/VOs under its various schemes. The MSJE provided an amount of Rs. 1,459,20,70,725 from FYs 2002-2003 to 2008-2009 or at an average of Rs. 208,45,81,532 every year.
The MSJE is followed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development with Rs. 950,19,00,000; Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Rs.578,77,44,637); Ministry of Rural Development (Rs. 363,24,06,073); Ministry of Tribal Welfare (Rs. 343,50,62,000); Ministry of Human Resource Development (Rs. 250,44,99,842); Ministry of Science and Technology (Rs. 151,30,06,89914 ); Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (Rs. 124,82,90,502); Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and North Eastern Council (NEC) (Rs. 112,47,79,536); Ministry of Heavy Industry and Public Enterprises (Rs. 109,59,00,000 15 ), among others.
Highlighting the corruption, ACHR director demanded setting up of a ‘National Grants-in-Aid Commission’ through which all grants to the voluntary sector by various ministries had to be routed.
The ACHR urged the Centre to ask all Ministries to do away with the current process of recommendations by the District Magistrates and the State governments, and invite applications through open call for proposals and consider projects on merits by independent evaluators.