A public trust established to alleviate sufferings of the rural population is finding it hard to stand on its feet financially due to rampant corruption and bureaucratic neglect, threatening the continuity of over 1,300 projects.
Due to alleged corruption in Trust for Voluntary Organizations, a grant making facility established to improve living standards in rural areas through non-government organisations, the operating cost of the entity has alarmingly shot up to 77% of the budget, sources told The Express Tribune.
At present, TVO is financing 1,331 projects worth Rs1.3 billion, however, the financing of these projects is at stake as the Trust’s overhead expenses have crossed 77% of the total budget, according to official documents.
TVO’s annual income is Rs90 million out of which its overhead expenses amount to Rs70 million, leaving it with only Rs20 million for development assistance. In 2010, the annual income was Rs102 million and the operating costs consumed Rs82 million, the documents stated.
Despite the grave situation, the administrative body Economic Affairs Division is not initiating inquiry.
TVO was established in 1990 under Special Development Fund agreement with the United States government. The US government had provided $30 million in balance of payments support while the government gave Rs520 million assistance. Due to importance attached to the organisation, late Nusrat Bhutto became the founding chairperson of the Board, which has now become a tool of looting the funds.
The Board members have been awarding themselves honorarium for attending the meetings and bleeding the organisation, source said. The alarming situation has also put at stake the Rs821.8 million endowment fund of the TVO, as some members of the TVO Board were also eying on this money as well, they added.
Sources said that genuine community participation was very weak in the TVO funded projects, as some of the board members were beneficiaries of the grant.
TVO projects are focused in primary healthcare, safe drinking water, primary education, poverty alleviation and rehabilitation of disabled persons in the far flung areas of the country.
TVO is governed by a Board comprising 10 private sector members and two ex-officio members representing Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Division.
The EAD has become a silent spectator and was not playing its role to correct the situation. The EAD Secretary Javed Iqbal, otherwise a distinguished bureaucrat, was not holing an inquiry into charges of corruption, conspiracies and mismanagement in the organisation. The EAD was also hands in gloves in concealing an external evaluation report that has exposed the dismal status of the TVO, the sources added.
Despite repeated attempts, Secretary EAD was not available for comments. The message was also left with his office but till the filing of the story there was no response.
The external evaluation of TVO was commissioned by the former chief executive officer of the organisation, which cost him his post. The sources said the board chairman instructed the CEO to bury the report and reinstate a former employee who was dismissed from service for alleged sexual harassment in a TVO regional office.
Sources said the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Shahnaz Wazir Ali could not help improve the situation despite her serious concerns over deteriorating situation.
A board member, who was interviewed by The Express Tribune, confirmed all these allegations. While speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the government was considering ordering financial audit of the organisation but yet no action has been taken by the EAD. He further said that the authorities were also working to reduce the unrealistic operational cost and planning to close almost 10 regional offices.
In yet another move, threatening the continuation of the policy, the government has also done away with the policy of retiring one-third of the board members every year. Nine out of the ten members of the current board were appointed on the same date and all would retire at the end of August 2013 at the same time.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.