Friday, April 17, 2009

NGO opens itself to public scrutiny.

Paras K Jha
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 11:30 IST

Ahmedabad: Even as questions are being raised about the lack of transparency in usage of funding in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and volunteer organisations (VOs), working for social causes, Paryavaran Mitra (PM) - an NGO, has set an example by organising a public hearing on the issue. Ahmedabad-based Paryavaran Mitra, which is working in the field of environmental-legal and social sector for past ten years, organised a public hearing for itself at Gujarat Vidhyapith on Tuesday.

The organisation has made its mark, by its efficient working and advocating against industrial pollution that affects environment. However, the organisation undertook a novel initiative of coming forward and making itself a subject of public scrutiny, asking for their suggestion and judgements on its style of working. It asked for public's suggestion to make it work more effectively.

A committee of reviewers consisting of RN Das, chief information commissioner, Gujarat state, SK Nanda, principal secretary, forest and environment department, prof Sudarshan Iyengar, vice-chancellor of Gujarat Vidhyapith, Shailesh Patwari, chairman of Naroda Enrio Project and Neeta Hardikar, trustee of Anandi Sanstha attended the public hearing. More than 250 people from industry, NGOs, academics and government departments took part in the event.

Mahesh Pandya, senior member of the organisation said, "We, as a Paryavaran Mitra have attended nearly 303 industries public hearings. While we have asked lots of questions to industries, to the state government through RTI Act, we believe it is our responsibility to show our accountability to the society as well. And while, we are working on behalf of people, we should talk to them also. Today, there are many NGOs, which are spending lavishly on public funding, but because of them, many NGOs have to suffer from the ire of the society. So, we have come up with our accounts and expenditures, incurred during the last 10 years."

He further said, "We have spent nearly Rs9 lakh/year that is Rs90 lakh in a decade and, in return, we have also provided the work, which we undertook during the same period. It is a way of showing our competence to the people, society. We had called all those industries' representatives, to whom we had raised serious questions on violations of norms and its impact on pollution level."

Gagan Sethi, former trustee of the organisation said, "Social sector and NGOs are politically abused on the issue of accountability. This public hearing is aimed at bridging the divide on the issue of accountability. By showing our accounts and results of our work done, which is nearly in the ratio of 1:100, meaning against for every one rupee we spent, the society has got return of Rs100. Let other NGOs come forward and establish better benchmarks than us. If someone is giving donation or providing funding to NGOs for tax saving purpose, it is the money which is for public works. It is routed to NGOs for undertaking development work."

All the experts in the reviewer committee appreciated the initiative and wished other NGOs could follow the same path.


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