Will Secretary EAD stand up to answer the queries on misuse of US Tax Payer’s money?
Trust for Voluntary organizations (TVO) a distinguished grant making facility is slowly dying an unnatural death due to bureaucratic neglect. It is pertinent to note here that TVO was established in 1988 under Special Development Fund (SDF) Agreement with US government. US government agreed to provide USD 30 million in balance of payments support in lieu of the GoP providing at least Rs 520 million for a private sector company to carry out the purposes of the Special Development Fund (SDF) agreement.TVO is governed by a Board comprising of 10 private sector members and two ex-officio members representing Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Division. The Prime Minister of Pakistan appoints the private members who have distinguished themselves in their areas of professional expertise.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto graced the Founding Board as its Chairperson. She was succeeded by Begum Zari Sarfraz, Barrister Shahzad Jahangir and Mr. Azam Khan. Board members, during the early years included highly accomplished people like Abdul Sattar Edhi, Asma Jilani, Akhtar Hameed Khan, Shoaib Sultan Khan, Syed Babar Ali and Shahzada Alam Munnoo. Due to diminished interest of successive governments in strategic role of TVO members with much less experience and professional expertise were inducted in the Board. Current Chairman brings with him the experience of running a fried chicken outlet in a rural town to lead this prime institution. TVO had decided in early years in the interest of policy continuity that one third of the Board members should retire every year. This staggered retirement arrangement does not exist anymore. Nine out of the ten members of the current Board were appointed on the same date and all would retire at the end of August 2013 at the same time. This will leave TVO with a leadership vacuum and turn it into a chicken without a head.
During the course of its expansion TVO’s overhead to programme cost ratio has far exceeded its programme cost. TVO established an Endowment of Rs. 520 million under Special Development Fund. Subsequently Rs. 662.5 million were received from European Union. At present TVO’s Endowment size is Rs. 821.77 million. TVO’s annual income is Rs. 90 million out of which its overhead expenses amount to Rs. 70 million and it is left with Rs. 20 million for Development Assistance. In 2010, that annual income was Rs 102m; however, TVO operating costs consumed Rs 82 m of that income. At present TVO’s operating cost is about 77% of the budget, leaving just 23% for the program costs. That means that on average there would be funds available for just 1 to 2 NGO project grants at each of the 20 regional offices. TVO’s concern for women empowerment is discerned by the fact that it has just 3 women staff members, out of a total of 118.
Genuine community participation is very weak in all TVO funded projects. During past 5 years some of the 20 TVO regions were not visited even once by any head office program staff. Almost no review, coordination and planning meetings were held between the head office and regional staff and no staff training was held either. Regional staff even in distant places eg, in Turbat or DI Khan, requires head office permission each time to make field visits. At the regions, after accounting for vehicle maintenance and staff pick-drop costs, there is little vehicle running allowance left for field visits. With 2 projects per year and no transport budget one can imagine how effectively TVO’s humongous work force is being used. While Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund with a grant fund of 46 million dollar maintains one office, TVO with grant annual grant size of 0.3 million dollars maintains 20 offices.
TVO funded Project feasibility and planning is weak. Infrastructure project sustainability is compromised by usually no formal system of O&M (operation and maintenance). Other projects e.g. Stitching Centers, Health Centers, Schools, often suffer from not having sufficient income to cover costs once the TVO project has ended (6 months to a year); their operations and quality suffer. Serious allegations of fraud against TVO Board members and employees have been reported by former employees who dared to raise their voices against rampant corruption in TVO.
TVOs mission speaks of women’s development. However, TVO did not did not make any attempt to achieve that. TVO has just 3 women staff out of 118. Most TVO partner NGOs do not have any regular source of income. There are no financial sustainability plans of most such NGOs. Most of these NGOs are one man shows, with little institutional capacity. Some of the Stitching Centers don’t even exist. One such Stitching Centre was set up in Khanewal by a Board member. There are schools funded by TVO where teachers have not received salary for the last 8 months since the TVO funding ended. Hundreds of hand pumps installed with TVO have been reported missing in the field. None of the employees charged for pocketing money with fraudulent means has been fired. It has been pointed out that NGOs run by many Board members are themselves beneficiaries of TVOs gravy train.
Rampant corruption, mismanagement and incompetence in TVO were pointed out to EAD for initiating an inquiry. However, higher ups in Economic Affairs Division (EAD) realizing the part played by a Deputy Secretary Waqar ud Din in conspiracies, corruption and misdeeds decided to cover up the scam and no inquiry has been ordered so far. An external evaluation of TVO recently commissioned by the new CEO-first of its kind in last 20 years- presented a dismal picture of the state of affairs in TVO. Board Chairman has tucked it in a closet. According to insiders he instructed the CEO to bury the report and reinstate a former employee who was dismissed from service for raping a young girl in a TVO regional office. On July 6, 2012, new CEO was informed through an Office Order that his contract stood terminated. There was no reason given in the Office Order for the decision to terminate the contract. Board members are confident that due to support extended by the Deputy Secretary of EAD – Administrative Ministry assigned to monitor TVO’s performance- they can get away with fraud and corruption with impunity.
So far Secretary EAD is dragging his feet on reports of deep rooted corruption and mismanagement. However, we have the right to ask Secretary EAD following questions in public interest?
- Why an internal investigation into charges of corruption, conspiracies and mismanagement in TVO communicated to you through various channels has not been started? If an inquiry committee has been set up who is part of that and what are the findings and recommendations?
- Why recent external evaluation report of TVO has not been made public in greater public interest?
- What was the process followed in constituting the current Board of Directors and why the request of former Board Chairman Qazi Asad Abid for extension of his term was not presented to the Prime Minister?
- Why have members of TVO Board approved payment of Rs. 10,000 as honorarium for themselves for attending Board meetings? Is it not conflict of interest that honorarium recipients are decision makers for determining the amount of honorarium also? While TVO Board members claim to be doing a “voluntary service” on what moral ground they receive Rs. 10,000 for attending a meeting? Does a single Charity (TVO is registered as Charity) anywhere in the entire world pay this amount to its Board members for attending Board meetings? How much money has Mr. Waqar Siddiqui, Deputy Secretary EAD received for attending TVO Board meetings? Is he entitled to receive payment for performing his official duties for which he gets a salary? Under which rule he received these payments? If not what action has been taken against him?
- Based on the dismal findings of evaluation report why a Management Audit of TVO has not been conducted?