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Lalit Kala Akademi sctrutnised by HRD ministry, accused of supporting fake NGOs

Author: Amit Kumar
Publication: Indiatoday.in
Date: February 15, 2017
URL:   http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/lalit-kala-akademi-internal-audit-ministry-of-human-resource-development-delhi-high-court-order/1/883137.html

An internal audit by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) as well as a Delhi high court order underscore a grim litany of malpractices at the prestigious institution.

Aesthetes who know the Lalit Kala Akademi only as a flagbearer of Indian art are in for a culture shock. An internal audit by the ministry of human resource development (HRD) as well as a Delhi high court order underscore a grim litany of malpractices at the prestigious institution.

"In a landmark judgment on April 4, 2013, the court decided to restore the election process and directed the academy to conduct its elections in a time-bound manner by May 12, 2013," said a member of the art fraternity, seeking anonymity. "Justice Rajiv Shakhder also appointed retired chief justice AP Shah as election officer to conduct the balloting. But, almost four years after the order, no election has taken place."

Also, for three financial years between 2012 and 2015, the academy paid lakhs of rupees to advocates and booked the amount under the subhead "election to general council".

Mail Today also has a copy of the ministry audit report that says the academy has been in the practice of allotting the galleries free of cost to embassies and private artists or organisations despite rules saying "no exemption from payment of licence fees shall be allowed to anyone whether the name of Lalit Kala Akademi is mentioned in applicant's exhibition brochure or not".

The scrutiny was carried out by the HRD ministry's internal audit wing on request from the ministry of culture that funds the academy. According to sources, a recent administrator at the institution also supported some nonexistent NGOs.

"The action of the Akademi is in violation of its rules and therefore unauthorised. The free of cost allotment of galleries resulted in total revenue loss of about `52.5 lakh to the Akademi during 2012-13 to 2014-15 in addition to service tax evasion and loss to the exchequer of about `6.49 lakh," the ministry report says

"During the course of audit, it was found that Shailendra Tiwari was appointed legal advisor of LKA and was paid `21.45 lakh from February 15, 2013 to March 31, 2015 towards fees and other charges. The fee structure approved by LKA for legal advisor is two to 10 times more than the approved rates by Ministry of Law & Justice."

It also highlights illegal appointments of nearly 17 staff members on contractual basis with hefty salaries, spending lakhs of rupees from the exchequer. The Centre took over management control of the academy in 2015, citing complaints regarding alleged administrative and financial irregularities in its functioning.

According to sources, though acting on the complaints of the art fraternity and based on the audit report, the ministry removed Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty unceremoniously for the alleged irregularities during his tenure, the current bureaucracy is trying to "save the skins of the previous brethren".

The audit report indicates that financial prudence and propriety expected to be exercised while spending public money was not adhered to by the academy.

When contacted, the newly appointed administrator of the institution told Mail Today that the process of election for members of the general council has not started yet. "I am very new to this Lalit Kala Akademi," said CS Krishna Setty. "Regarding election, the government has to take the call."

The auditors have recommended the licence fee due be recovered from the organisations and artists who were allotted the galleries free of cost and service tax be collected from them to be deposited to the exchequer. It has also advised the academy to refrain from engaging advocates at exorbitant rates and follow proper procedure by utilising the services of counsel and senior counsel empanelled by the ministry of law and justice.

On the matter of implementing the recommendations, Setty said he cannot comment right now as he is in Bengaluru.
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