In a nationwide crackdown, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday conducted searches and apprehended at least six officials of the Union Home Ministry’s Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) division along with others for allegedly facilitating illegal clearances to non-government organisations (NGOs) under the Act, in lieu of bribes.
Based on the Home Ministry’s inputs, the CBI carried out searches on about 40 premises of the suspect NGO representatives, middlemen and FCRA division officials in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Mysore among other places. It nabbed some accused persons, including public servants, while bribes were being exchanged, said a CBI source.
Around half a dozen officials and others were picked up for questioning by the agency to determine their role. During the searches so far, hawala transaction details of about ₹2 crore have also been found.
A Home Ministry spokesperson said the CBI took the action on a complaint from the Ministry. “The MHA [Ministry of Home Affairs] received complaints of corruption from many NGOs regarding consultants who promised speedy renewal of registration and were charging money for the same. The complaint was examined and the complicity of few Home Ministry officials was found to be true,” said a Home Ministry official.
The FCRA registration of several thousand NGOs are up for renewal since 2021, a process that has been affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry has given several extensions due to the slow-renewal process, the latest deadline has been revised to June 30.
“Due to the slow renewal process, many consultant groups sprang up and advertised on websites. In complicity with the MHA officials, they were not only indulging in corruption to get the renewals done but were helping the NGOs which had received notices for FCRA violations,” said the official.
The FCRA registration of nearly 6,000 NGOs had ceased to operate from January 1 as MHA refused to renew their application or the NGOs did not apply for registration. There were 16,890 FCRA-registered NGOs as on Tuesday, down from over 22,000 on December 31, 2021.
After norms were revised in 2015, the FCRA registration – which is mandatory for the NGOs to receive foreign funds – is renewed every five years.