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CSR Donations To Indian NGO By European Defence, Aviation Firms Under Scanner: Report

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Income Tax Department’s investigation into aviation consultant Deepak Talwar has yielded documents showing that Talwar’s NGO received donations amounting to Rs 143 crore from European missile manufacturer MBDA and the erstwhile EADS, now the Airbus Group, under the head of corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds, reported The Indian Express on Thursday.

The NGO, Advantage India, received these payments from the two defence and aviation majors in several installments between June 2012 and April 2015, added the report.

Incidentally, according to the report, Talwar’s name figures in connection with former Central Bureau of Investigation director Ranjit Sinha and the Nira Radia tapes.

The documents and data were recovered during a search on Talwar’s premises on June 22.

According to the report, both companies have confirmed that CSR funds were given to the NGO in question. They also said that they had appointed “oversight committees” in the country to ensure that the funds were being used properly.

What is the investigation all about

Income Tax officials have told The Indian Express that their investigations have unearthed possible “fake” expenses incurred by the NGO.

The expenses include purchase of medicine for Rs 32 crore, purchase of Mobile Medical Units (MMUs) for around Rs 25 crore and large sums spent on exercise books and stationery.

Speaking to the national daily, a top official said: “We have several questions regarding the NGO’s expenses and the authenticity of their disclosures along with other tax issues, Deepak Talwar will be questioned on the utilisation of donations from MBDA and EADS.”

Citing Advantage India’s filings with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs – required for receiving and maintaining the NGO’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration – the report said that foreign contributions amounting to Rs 39.16 crore were received by the NGO in 2014-15, it received no foreign contributions between 2006-07 and 2011-12, and that it did not file contribution report for 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Further, the report added that the NGO’s declaration filed in 2014-15 stated that it has already put to use Rs 32.34 crore during the year and that Rs 6.81 crore of the foreign contribution remained unspent.

These filings are now being compared to the foreign donations and receipts of the NGO, the report added.

The donations made by MBDA, according to The Economic Times, were meant for MMUs in Punjab and Rajasthan.

Citing senior officials involved in the investigation, the report said that intelligence agencies have been called in to handle any further probe into the matter.

The investigation into Advantage India comes at a time when NGO’s have had their licenses under the FCRA cancelled. According to the report, Advantage India’s FCRA license was renewed in April.

“All foreign donations have been accounted for”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Advantage India’s compliance manager Sanjay Mittal said: “At one point Advantage India was running eight MMUs and over 4.5 lakh people have received free healthcare through them. Besides this, Advantage India has been providing free primary education and running livelihood centres. Now the donations from MBDA and EADS have stopped and today, in fact, was the last day for an MMU to be deployed by us in a village since the funds have dried up.”

Deepak Talwar said, “All the donations we have received from the foreign companies have been accounted for and how does it matter where the money has come from if it is being used in the right manner? There is no wrong doing here.”

Responding to questions on the matter, MBDA said, “… Regarding the CSR programme with Advantage India, the mission was to enhance health, education and livelihood status of the underprivileged population. Based on a concrete action plan, MBDA funded Advantage India to provide increased access to health care (free of cost) through Mobile Medical Units at village level and to promote health care through awareness generation about the preventive measures against diseases.” The company added, “During this partnership, MBDA has regularly taken part of ‘Donors’ Oversight Committees’ to discuss achievements and plans going forward.”

According to the report, sources close to Airbus said that its donations to Advantage India were stopped when the company’s reorganisation took place. The sources added that regular utilisation certificates had been received from the NGO.

(Business Standard)

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