Page 1 of 22ASHA PROJECTS : Where does all the money go
Nirupama Rajan and Radha Rajan
In this chapter, we will be looking at some of the projects that ASHA has funded in India.
Nirupama Rajan downloaded all the projects funded by ASHA from ASHA’s website: http://www.ashanet.org. The website allows us to download by Year, Chapter or Projects. There are altogether 1,538 projects under this category. The projects are numbered chronologically and mention the Chapter, if any, which funded the project and the amount of money granted to the project in a particular year. If a project has been granted money for four years, either consecutive or otherwise, by the same Chapter or different Chapters, the project is listed four times at different chronological numbers, with the names of the Chapters making the grant, the year of the grant and the amount of money granted.
Nirupama made an XL file of the data so downloaded with filters so that we could look for any information Chapter-wise, project-wise, money-wise or year-wise. Radha ran a random check of the projects listed on the website to critically examine the kind of projects that were being ‘shepherded’, as the Magsaysay citation put it, by Sandeep Pandey. She found that some projects had the basics – Chapter, year, money and description while many had only sketchy or no details at all. Some projects carried details of so-called ‘project reports’ while some indicated the reports on the webpage which, however, did not open. This was both Nirupama’s and Radha’s experience. In this chapter, we are not even getting into the issue of whether FCRA has verified the truth or otherwise about whether these projects really exist on the ground, whether targets have been achieved and if the funds really reached the intended end-source and the like. We are only examining the details provided by ASHA on its website about the projects and the funds received. We take the data as presented by ASHA at face value and subject it to critical scrutiny.
Obviously, this chapter is about exposing what we think are gross accounting inadequacies, to put it charitably. As Radha began to analyse the projects listed on ASHA’s website, she stumbled upon no fewer than five Pandey funding beneficiaries – Sandeep, Mahesh, Vallabhacharya, Asha and Sudhakar – all apparently connected. We also do know that that there have been meetings of ASHA office-bearers over the issue of accounting. When one of them suggests hiring a professional chartered accountant on a salary, Sandeep Pandey says he finds the idea of a professional accountant ‘uncomfortable’ and suggests that they continue with one of them taking care of accounts, while a trustee called Shanmuga expressed the view that for NGOs a professional and paid accountant is ‘dangerous’ (http://184.108.40.206/search).
We can now understand why!