CAG flags 'irregularities' in Lalit Kala Akademi; 'wrong and fabricated', says art institution
The report alleges LKA disregarded several norms in making payments to other bodies, appointing officers, availing services from outside agencies and assigning a foreign tour
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has flagged serious financial "irregularities" in the Lalit Kala Akademi, according to officials in the know of the audit observation.
The audit observation of LKA, a prestigious art institution under the Culture Ministry to promote visual arts in India, by the CAG for a period from 2016-17 to 2021-22 points out various anomalies in violation of the government's general financial rules.
According to the officials, the report alleges that LKA disregarded several norms in making payments to other bodies, appointing officers, availing services from outside agencies and assigning a foreign tour, among other anomalies.
While LKA chairman Uma Nanduri, who is also joint secretary in the Ministry of Culture, refused to respond, Ramakrishna Vedala, secretary (in-charge) of LKA, has rubbished the audit observation calling it "wrong and fabricated".
The CAG sent the audit observation to the LKA in October 2022 for its response. The LKA has further forwarded it to the ministry, which is yet to revert to the Akademi.
After the ministry's response, the LKA will send it to CAG which will compile and table it in the Parliament.
The CAG has alleged that LKA didn't receive utilisation certificates from various institutions for an amount of Rs 2,568.66 lakh from 1997-98 to 2021-22.
"Akademi needs to take effective measures to ensure that the utilisation certificates (UCs) are received and also ensure that funds have actually been utilised for the purpose for which they have been released ", the report said.
"The quality of maintenance of records was very poor. There was no evidence regarding sincere action taken by the Akademi to reduce the number of outstanding UCs," it added.
It has also flagged the irregularities in hiring and deployment of vehicles, engaging legal counsels, purchase and distribution of laptops, and undue favours to contractors, among other violations.
Questioning the Akademi's decision to advertise through private agencies, the report said, "The imprudent decision of awarding the work of publishing advertisements of LKA through a private agency and without following the prescribed norms was highly irregular."
Alleging that Vadela himself travelled to Mexico in 2019 without any approval from the competent authorities, the report suggested, "An ex-post facto sanction may be obtained from the ministry or the amount may be recovered from the concerned official."
It also indicated irregularities in appointment of an assistant programme officer (APO) and said that the present APO doesn't fulfil the eligibility conditions.
Vedala dismissed all allegations and said that there is no corruption in LKA. He defended the LKA's decision in all the matters and said that everything has been done as per the norms.
"Government organisations give utilisation certificates late. We are in the process of getting those certificates. Where is corruption in that? The APO's appointment is as per the recruitment rules. There is no violation in anything," Vedala said.
When asked that the CAG's audit observation has questioned the hiring and deployment of vehicles worth Rs 54.76 lakh from 2016-17 to 2021-22 without adopting limited/open tender enquiry, Vedala said, "If we are doing programmes and if our staff are going here and there to achieve objectives of Lalit Kala Akademi on various projects like doing visual arts camps, can't we hire vehicles? Are the staff not eligible to go here and there to get the work done?"
Situated in New Delhi, LKA was inaugurated on August 5, 1954 by the then education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to promote visual arts. Three years later in 1957, it was registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860 and at present it has seven other centres in the country.