“It is a huge scam. While the guidelines for NGO funding are excellent, there is no transparency in how the beneficiary NGOs are selected, whether they utilise the funds because there have been no utilisation certificates in a large number of cases, and, most significantly, no accountability on the part of either the officials or the NGOs,” said Suhas Chakma, director, ACHR, which recently released the study, titled “India’s funds to NGOs squandered”. Conducted over three years since 2009, it consists of over 710 pages of Right to Information (RTI) replies from various Central Ministries and State government departments. ACHR has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. “Selection of grantees did not depend on their ability or technical expertise, but their closeness to officials, their networking skills and their ability to pay bribes,” Chakma alleged.
Even in cases where irregularities have been brought to light, there is hardly any action ever: files go missing, no officials are ever punished, and no NGOs are hauled up for fraud, he says. The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), while auditing the National Afforestation and Eco-development programmes by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, commented that there was the possibility of a huge scam by the NGOs/voluntary organisations as 7,916 utilisation certificates from the grantees for Rs.596.79 crore from 1981-2009 were not submitted and none of the grantees came back for the second instalment of the grant after availing itself of the first instalment.