Jammu: Sixty two Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory being funded substantially by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development under Social Welfare Schemes are showing reluctance in furnishing information about their working and expenditure under the Right To Information Act.
This has been viewed seriously by the Chief Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission Y K Sinha, who while issuing necessary directions to the Social Welfare Department of Jammu and Kashmir, has observed, “in spite of mounting pressure for more openness and transparency, it appears that a number of NGOs remain reluctant to share information and recognize the need for accountability”.
As per the report published in the Daily Excelsior the case before the Chief Information Commissioner was that the appellant (applicant before the PIOs), who appears to be on a mission to conduct a performance audit of the NGOs, had sought information about utilization of funds being granted to these organizations by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
However, the appellant was not furnished the requisite information and this compelled him to knock the doors of the CIC with Second Appeals.
The contention of the appellant before the Commission was that he has filed these RTI applications for the purpose of bringing transparency in the public dealings and probity in public life and in NGOs or other bodies by the concerned department; to lay down guidelines for accreditation of NGOs and devise a proper accounting system to create a proper channel for utilization of funds from the Government.
“Every citizen has a right to know as to whether his/her money which has been given to an NGO or any other body is being used for the requisite purpose or not”, the appellant further mentioned in the Second Appeals.
“These 62 NGOs were substantially funded by the Ministry of Women and Child Development through J&K Social Welfare Department and this being funded by public money, the relevant information about these NGOs ought to be disclosed under the RTI Act”, the appellant submitted.
He also highlighted before the Chief Information Commissioner the issue of lack of transparency and probity in the domain of the functioning of these NGOs as these remain distant from public scrutiny.
In view of the averments raised by the appellant and perusal of the records, the Chief Information Commissioner observed, “it is important for NGOs to achieve and maintain a high degree of transparency in not just their work but also their financial dealings”.
“Keeping the financial statements and operations open to public scrutiny will aid in garnering greater public confidence about the organizations. However, in spite of mounting pressure for more openness and transparency, it appears that a number of NGOs remain reluctant to share information and/or recognize the need for accountability”, the Chief Information Commissioner said, adding “more accountability and greater transparency are essential ingredients of good governance and responsiveness to public needs”.
Upholding the contention of the appellant seeking information in larger public interest, the Commission said, “the timely availability of reliable information is essential for the effective regulation and monitoring of NGOs by beneficiaries, donors and Governments”.
Accordingly, the Chief Information Commissioner has impleaded J&K Social Welfare Department as respondent and accordingly directed the PIO of the department to provide relevant information in respect of these 62 NGOs to the appellant.
“In case the information is not available then the PIO must procure the same from the actual custodians of information by invoking relevant provisions of the RTI Act and provide it to the appellant Ashok Kumar free of cost”, the Commission said.
The PIO has further been directed to submit a detailed compliance report before the Commission enumerating all the information provided to the appellant by March 31, 2021.
“A copy of this order be also furnished to the senior functionaries of the Social Welfare Department so as to ensure compliance within the stipulated time period”, the CIC said while disposing of all the Second Appeals with a single order.
The NGOs from whom the information had been sought by the appellant included Society for Welfare of Downtrodden, NEAT, Zabar-Wan Women’s Welfare and Childcare Development Organization, Lal Ded Mahila Mandal Committee, Alima Iqbal Development, Environmental, Sports and Cultural Society, Ganit-ul-Aloom Charitable Trust, Noor Educational Society, New Women’s Welfare Society, Hassina Ladies Vocational Centre, J&K State Social Welfare Institute, Border Area Development Council, Majestic Voluntary Organization, Hidden Treasure Academy, Mighli Ladies Institution, Khakni Ladies Vocational Centre and Sain Baba Welfare Society etc.