Bangalore: In an unusual but ‘clean’ way of celebrating its fifth anniversary, a city-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) has invited the general public to inspect its books of accounts, check out its list of donors and view contracts. At a time when several NGOs are under the scanner for trying to shroud financial transactions in secrecy, The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), a non-profit research organisation that defends consumer rights on the Internet, has upped its policy of transparency a notch.
Located in Domlur and largely patronised by Bangalore’s tech community, CIS’s books of accounts will be available for public scrutiny during its fifth anniversary celebrations from May 20 to 23 and will show how the NGO has spent the Rs 13.13 crore it has received from donors since its launch.
Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, CIS executive director Sunil Abraham admitted that the move was to dispel any lingering doubts on the motives of his organisation. “These days, many NGOs have been in the news for misappropriation of donations,” Abraham said. “We want to keep our books of accounts open to the public. Apart from details like salaries drawn by each board member, many other details like contractual obligations with entities, details of donors and official travel expenses by board members can also be obtained. Anybody can walk into our office and ask to see the accounts. A photocopy of all the details will also be given to them at the earliest.”
In fact, a recent debate in the Rajya Sabha centred on the lack of transparency among NGOs receiving contributions from overseas after the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was passed in 2010. With 17 donors, a majority of who are from overseas, CIS ensures that every rupee obtained is well spent and accounted for.
“We have made public a list of donors and their share of contributions to our society,” Abraham said. “This will give everybody a clear picture of the funds we receive and where and how it is being spent.”
CIS is primarily funded by the Kusuma Trust, The Wikimedia Foundation and The Hans Foundation among others. The society was founded in 2008 and has 17 staff of whom four are based in Delhi and the rest in Bangalore. The society also has seven distinguished fellows and five fellows.
It conducts policy research programmes on topics like accessibility, access to knowledge, openness, internet governance and telecom. The society has churned out 641 research items in five years that include essays, books and blog entries on the topics. It has also conducted research on the accessibility of the e-governance system and has suggested ways to make it more disabled-friendly.
As part of its anniversary celebrations, the society will hold a four-day event in its office starting May 20 that will include an exhibition showcasing its activities so far. Various artists like Kiran Subbaiah, Tara Kelton, Navin Thomas and Abhishekh Hazra are expected to participate and give live demonstrations.