Over 100 former civil servants wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, raising concerns about the PM Cares Fund's transparency, reported The New Indian Express.
The group of former bureaucrats said it was necessary that the particulars of financial details of receipts and expenditures should be made public for reasons of probity and adherence to standards of public accountability to avoid doubts of wrongdoing.
"We have been keenly following the ongoing debate about the Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, or 'PM-CARES', -- a fund created for the benefit of people affected by the COVID pandemic. Both the purpose for which it has been created as well as the way it has been administered have left a number of questions unanswered," they said in the letter.
The letter also said that keeping in mind the position and stature of the Prime Minister, total transparency should be ensured in all dealings where the Prime Minister is associated.
The group mentioned that the immediate cause for the letter was the government's refusal to divulge details under RTI "on the grounds that the PM Cares Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005". However, the PM Cares Fund website mentions Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Home Minister and Defence Minister as its trustees.
The civil servants said that the "clear absence of transparency" in every aspect of the Fund, was "disturbing" as states governments handling the challenges of the pandemic "were, and continue to be, sorely in need of financial assistance", reported The Indian Express.
Signatories of the letter include IAS officers Anita Agnihotri, S P Ambrose, Sharad Behar, Sajjad Hassan, Harsh Mander, P Joy Oommen, Aruna Roy, former diplomats Madhu Bhaduri, K P Fabian, Deb Mukharji, Sujatha Singh and former IPS officers A S Dulat, P G J Nampoothiri and Julio Ribeiro among others.
The Centre had set up the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund last year in March, with the primary objective to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the COVID-19 outbreak and provide relief to those affected.