Home/ News / India/  Allegations of impropriety mount against Akshaya Patra Foundation

At least half of Akshaya Patra Foundation’s (APF's) more than 52 kitchens across 21 states have indulged in foodgrain and fund diversion, two people aware of the matter said, as allegations of impropriety continue to mount against the Bengaluru-headquartered non-profit organization.

Other allegations include the thwarting of requests for a fair and independent probe into the charges as recommended by the erstwhile audit committee.

APF recently reconstituted its board after the exit of four high-profile independent trustees—Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education, former Infosys chief financial officer V. Balakrishnan, co-founder of ChrysCapital Raj Kondur, and adviser to Manipal Education and Medical Group, Abhay Jain.

“The discrepancies have been happening for eight to 10 years and only an independent probe will reveal the quantum of diversion," said the first person cited, requesting not to be named. “It could be Rs10 crore, Rs50 crore or Rs70 crore. We won’t know until an independent probe is done."

Another allegation is that of non-maintenance of records of the use of APF kitchens for purposes other than government-sponsored mid-day meal programme by parties related to the non-profit.

“If they (related parties) are using our (APF) kitchens and there are no records of it, it becomes theft," said the second person cited above.

Earlier this year, Suresh Senapaty, former Wipro chief financial officer and member of the audit committee at APF, had in a letter alleged that costs per meal at APF were far higher than that at any other similar organization for a similar meal.

“Any amount of questioning/review didn’t yield results because the individual kitchens are run by missionary unit presidents who never demonstrated their accountability to the AP organization," reads the letter, which has been reviewed by Mint.

The allegations have been largely directed at Madhu Pandit Dasa, APF's chairman, and Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice-chairman, and people associated with them.

While there has been no official denial of wrongdoing from APF, the mounting allegations and calls for probe by activists could dent not only the foundation’s image but also impact donations that fund its programmes.

“It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to make a mention that the conflicting position of trusteeship of temple trusts held by the chairman and vice chairman of the foundation, including their reluctance to recuse themselves from such investigation proceedings, is a serious bottleneck in ensuring a fair investigation, including any credible follow-up/corrective action resulting from such investigation," according to the letter.

The audit committee letter also states that there have been several whistle-blower complaints over the last two years regarding the functioning of the units and its president. “After due investigation, in almost all cases, it has been established that there have been wrongdoings on the part of unit presidents and /or other missionaries," the letter states.

APF didn't respond to a detailed questionnaire from Mint.

The charges resurfaced after the four independent trustees mentioned earlier resigned from APF citing, what they claim, were efforts to stonewall proposals to increase transparency and to probe irregularities.

The total income of APF in 2018-19 (most recent published report) was Rs52,118.33 lakh and the organization incurred an expenditure of Rs51,627.02 lakh. The public trust has total assets worth Rs43,967.74 lakh, according to details in the 2018-19 annual report.

The organization is reported to have received over Rs247 crore from the government and over Rs352 crore from donations in the previous fiscal.

The second person cited above said that the two trustees, their missionaries and other related parties have been diverting resources that were originally meant for APF.

An EY audit is under way.

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Updated: 20 Nov 2020, 12:20 PM IST
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