All domestic and foreign-funded NGOs receiving grants beyond a threshold limit and their executives have been asked to file details of their assets and liabilities by the end of this month.
The directive follows the Centre’s order last month which brought organisations receiving more than Rs one crore in government grants and donations above Rs 10 lakh from abroad under the ambit of Lokpal.
“Any person who is or has been a director, manager, secretary or any other officer of a society, association of persons or trust (whether registered under any law for the time being in force or not), wholly or partly financed by the government, and the annual income of which exceeds Rs one crore has to file the details (of assets and liabilities),” a senior Personnel Ministry official said.
He said these declarations are to be filed with the central government department concerned giving the highest amount of grant to the Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).
In case of NGOs getting the foreign grant of over Rs ten lakh, these returns are to be filed with the Home Ministry, the official said.
“It has been decided by the Centre to consider office bearers of the NGOs as public servants and they need to file the details of assets and liabilities, along with those of their spouse and dependent children, with the central government department concerned by July 31, 2016,” he said.
As per rules notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, every public servant shall file declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to his assets and liabilities as on March 31 every year or on or before July 31 of that year.
The returns are to be filed for financial year 2015-2016 by July 31. Besides them, all central government employees also have to file such details by that date.
“The new rules by the Personnel Ministry bring officials working under the NGOs funded by the government under the Lokpal’s ambit and subject them to legal action for misusing the grant or for alleged corruption,” the official said.
The decision is being objected to by the civil society activists.
“NGOs and their officers do not perform any public duty like civil servants, MPs or judges. Their work is purely voluntary i.e. no law or rule imposes on them any duty to perform public functions.
“So, treating them as public servants is like treating unequals equally. This is a complete violation of Article 14 of the Constitution which requires equals to be treated equally and unequals unequally,” said Venkatesh Nayak, who works with NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
As many as 14,222 NGOs were barred from receiving foreign funds in the past four years for violating norms, as per the government’s latest data.