A company floated by the private secretary of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, gathering funds and organising events with support from the government, has raised questions about a possible violation of rules governing the conduct of civil servants, reported Josy Joseph and Arun S in The Hindu.
Gadkari holds three offices in the current government – Road Transport and Highways, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and Shipping.
Vaibhav Dange was appointed private secretary to the union minister on 8 August 2014 on a contract basis for five years or on a co-terminus basis with Gadkari’s tenure with approval of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
An old loyalist of Gadkari, Dange floated the ‘Indian Federation of Green Energy’ (IFGE) on 9 October 2014, along with Motiram Kisanrao Patil, a resident of Chalisgaon, Maharashtra. They held 50% shares each in the Section 8 company, meant to operate not for profit.
Rule 12 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) prohibits Government servants from asking for or accepting contributions to or otherwise associating themselves with the raising of any fund in pursuance of any object whatsoever. It says, “No Government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government or of the prescribed authority, ask for or accept contributions to, or otherwise associate himself with the raising of, any funds or other collections in cash or in kind in pursuance of any object whatsoever.”
Dange denied charges
In a written statement, Dange denied the charges to The Hindu saying, “I categorically and emphatically state that I have not violated any central civil services (conduct) rules or any other service rules in any manner whatsoever ever since I have joined the government service.”
According to the Balance Sheet of IFGE as at 31 December 2016, the firm has either raised or invited funds, including from government departments and state-owned entities, as the document from the Registrar for Companies (RoC) database shows Rs 74 lakh cash in hand at the end of the financial year (FY) 2015. In the same year, it declared Rs 73 lakh as “Corpus Grant”.
At the end of FY 2016, the corpus grant is declared to the amount of Rs 1.33 crore. For the balance sheet of the same year, the company said: “Treatment of Grant in Aid has been made in the accounts as per AS-12 Accounting for Government Grants.” That its filing is declared to be in conformity with the accounting standard required for government grants suggests that the government has extended a grant-in-aid to IFGE.
Dange told The Hindu that Gadkari’s Ministry has not any money to IFGE. But the firm’s website shows that it has been involved in several conference and seminars in partnership with the departments working under Gadkari.
Dange resigned nine days after being questioned by The Hindu
Curiously, nine days after Dange was questioned about the glaring inconsistencies, Dange resigned as director of IFGE on 16 November. The letter of resignation filed with the RoC shows that he resigned on September 13.
Dange said that after he joined the government “I resigned from IFGE and accordingly intimated the competent authority. I do not hold any position whatsoever in the IFGE.”
Responding to The Hindu’s questions, he said, “It may be noted that I was involved in setting up IFGE when I was not part of the Government and after joining the Government I took steps to resign from IFGE even though it is open even for full-time, career government officials to undertake any work of literary, scientific or charitable nature.”
“The IFGE, an independent organisation, was started on 30 November 2013 (application to RoC) when I was a private individual and not part of the Government,” he said.
However, as mentioned earlier, RoC documents show that IFGE was incorporated on 9 October 2014, two months after Dange’s appointment as the private secretary to Gadkari.
“The IFGE has been incorporated as “not for profit” organisation (sec 25/ new sec 8) with no rights or benefits like remuneration, dividend to members. The license under sec 25 was issued by GOI on 24th March 2014 when the UPA was in power at the centre,” he claimed.
Union Ministers Gadkari and Suresh Prabhu have been mentioned among the array of high profile patrons listed by IFGE. They are yet to comment, despite being sent questions by The Hindu.