The Ministry of Culture has accepted the explanation given by the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) regarding the transfer of Rs. 5 crore to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF), a body headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
A special mid-term audit of NMML, completed in May 2010, had said that a Culture Ministry grant meant for a special publication project on Jawaharlal Nehru and C. Rajagopalachari, fellowship salaries, museum development and CCTV installation had been diverted to the JNMF, in direct violation of the Ministry's instructions.
The NMML had explained that the Ministry granted the money with the full knowledge that it was for the Selected Works Project being done by the JNMF.
In a note to its accounts office, the Ministry has now accepted that the transfer was done “with the approval of the competent authority”, and asked that the anomaly be corrected.
“Naturally, we are pleased,” said NMML director Mridula Mukherjee.
“It was always clear that the grant was meant for this specific purpose, and was passed by all duly constituted bodies. There was no diversion of funds… It was an obvious mistake on their part.”
However, not everyone is convinced. “It is quite clear that the Culture Ministry has come under pressure from powerful sources,” said one of the nine historians who asked the Central Vigilance Commission to investigate NMML on the basis of the audit.
“This is just an underhand way of moving public money to a private trust. If the trust wanted a grant, it should have applied directly to the government.”
He also pointed out that the fund transfer formed only a few paragraphs of the 41 page audit report and demanded that the other charges of financial irregularity also be investigated.
The audit claimed that NMML did negligible work on its primary research objectives, wasted money meant for modernisation on a string of consultants, misused development funds, and splurged on lunches and dinners.
But, Dr. Mukherjee is confident that NMML's point-by-point refutation of the audit's charges will be accepted. “I am sure that just as the Ministry has vindicated us on this, which was the major charge, they will also accept our position on all the other issues.
“Those nine scholars wrote to the CVC based on this erroneous report. They are all honourable people, so I expect they will now withdraw their complaint,” she said.