Former finance minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday (September 2) questioned the government as to why the names of “generous donors” to the PM-CARES fund for COVID-19 have not been revealed.
The fund received ₹3,076 crore in five days, according to an audit statement made public by the government. The statement, for the financial year 2020, only records donations between March 27 (when the fund was set up) and March 31.
Of this ₹3,076 crore, ₹3,075.85 crore came from domestic voluntary contribution and ₹39.67 lakh was foreign contribution. The statement says PM-CARES had an initial corpus of ₹2.25 lakh and the fund has also received interest of around ₹35 lakh.
The audit statement has been uploaded on the PM-CARES fund website but the “accompanying notes 1 to 6” in the statement have not been made public. That means details of the domestic and foreign contributors or donors have also not been disclosed.
“Why? Every other NGO or trust is obliged to reveal the names of donors contributing more than a threshold amount. Why is the PM Cares fund exempt from this obligation,” Chidambaram asked in a tweet.
PM-CARES or the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March to “deal with emergency or distress situations like the coronavirus pandemic”. It is managed by a trust with PM Modi as its chairperson and senior cabinet members as trustees.
In June, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) rejected an RTI application filed by NDTV seeking details of the PM-Cares Fund, including the trust deed, stating that the “fund is not a public authority under RTI Act”.
But the audit statement has been signed by PMO officials on behalf of PM-Cares.
According to PM-Cares Fund site, the primary objectives of the fund trust are: To undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, calamity or distress, either man-made or natural, including the creation or upgradation of healthcare or pharmaceutical facilities, other necessary infrastructure, funding relevant research or any other type of support; to render financial assistance, provide grants of payments of money or take such other steps as may be deemed necessary by the Board of Trustees to assist the affected population; and undertake any other activity, which is not inconsistent with the above objects.
The fund is administered on an honorary basis by a Joint Secretary (Administration) in the PMO as Secretary to the fund, who is assisted on honorary basis by an Officer of the rank of Director/Deputy Secretary (Administration) in the PMO. The Prime Minister’s Office provides such administrative and secretarial support to the Trustees for the management and administration of the Trust, as may be required by the trustees.
The PM CARES Fund accepts voluntary contributions by individuals/organizations as well as contributions as part of CSR from Companies/Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). However, contributions flowing out of budgetary sources of the PSUs are not accepted.