In a new ruling, the Centre has directed NGOs and their office-bearers to be treated as public servants and declare their assets if the NGOs’ annual incomes are over a particular threshold.
NGOs or non-profit organisations, that receive more than one crore rupees in government funds or more than 10 lakhs as donation from abroad and their office-bearers will now be considered public servants and will have to declare details of their assets and liabilities and those of their spouses and dependent children by July 31 this year, the Centre has said.
This follows the Centre’s decision to bring such organisations under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal or national ombudsman. The Lokpal law provides that every public servant must make public his assets and liabilities and that of his spouse and dependent children.
This decision will apply to “any person who is or has been a director, manager, secretary or any other officer of a society, association of persons or trust wholly or partly financed by the government and the annual income of which exceeds one crore rupees,” a senior personnel ministry official said.
It was also stated by the Centre that all NGO functionaries will be charged under the anti-corruption law in case of financial irregularities. The home ministry subsequently issued an “order” that requires disclosure of assets and liabilities under Section 44 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act by directors, secretaries, managers and other officers of foreign funded NGOs.
Amitabh Behar, executive director of National Foundation of India, said the need of the hour was to make a distinction between the executive body of NGOs and board members. “As part of the executive, I am personally okay with the declarations. But when it comes to the board members, they are there in an honorary capacity and do not take any remuneration for their work. So it is unfair to make them file declarations for their work with the NGOs. This would only dissuade good talent from remaining in or joining the boards.”
Since the board plays two important roles of passing the annual budget and approving the annual report, he said its members also keep a tight leash on the use of funds for the purpose they are meant.
We wouldn’t know about how right it is to treat board members as public servants, but transparency sure shouldn’t be a problem, right?
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.