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Madhu Pandit Dasa has been elected as the chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation. The foundation has so far served 3.3 billion meals as part of its mid-day meal programme, considered the world’s largest. Mint (MINT_PRINT)
Madhu Pandit Dasa has been elected as the chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation. The foundation has so far served 3.3 billion meals as part of its mid-day meal programme, considered the world’s largest. Mint (MINT_PRINT)

Former APF trustees cast doubts on its governance

  • Four of them have written to foundation’s management about issues needing scrutiny

Four independent trustees of Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) who resigned from the non-profit that operates school meal programmes have written to the management detailing governance issues that they say must be set right.

Former chief financial officer of Infosys Ltd Mohandas Pai and Abhay Jain, an advisor to Manipal education and medical group, had helped found the trust and were on its board for 20 years, before resigning on Saturday. Two other independent trustees, V. Balakrishnan, former chief financial officer of Infosys, and Raj Kondur, co-founder of ChrysCapital, also stepped down.

“For the last 20 years...to prepare for the 20th anniversary and make sure the future is much better, we brought in many more processes and rigour in everything we do. It’s a natural evolution. Over the last 12 months, when we have been trying to push for greater transparency and greater governance, the other two trustees have been resisting," Pai said in an interview on Tuesday. He did not name the trustees.

APF, which has 52 kitchens across 12 states and two Union territories, has so far served 3.3 billion meals as part of its mid-day meal programme, considered the world’s largest. The foundation serves food to over 1.8 million children in 19,039 schools and is aiming to take its daily meals to 5 million by 2025.

APF announced the reconstituting of the foundation’s board of trustees on Saturday. It will now have Madhu Pandit Dasa as its chairman, Chanchalapathi Dasa as vice-chairman, besides having K.V. Chowdary, former chairman of the Central Vigilance Commission, and Anil Swarup, former secretary of the ministry of human resource department, among others, as its members.

APF is expected to issue a statement in response the allegations levelled by Pai and the others, a person with the foundation said, seeking anonymity. Senior officials of the foundation could not be reached for comments.

“Over the last two decades, our trustees have played a crucial role in helping the organization grow," said Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice-Chairman of the foundation, according to a statement issued on 14 November. The foundation added that it felt the need for “fresh and renewed look" at its activities and a need for more innovations and newer and brighter ideas as it steps into its third decade of services. It also said that all donations it receives, including from governments, are “well utilized in the service of children and humanity."

Pai stopped short of alleging financial discrepancies at the foundation, but said that an organization of this stature must follow the highest governance and audit practices.

Pai further alleged without naming anyone, that two other trustees had started including more insiders on the trust and overriding the decisions made by independent trustees.


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