Board members hurt by transparency: Prasar Bharati CEO

Dismissing charges of financial irregularities in Prasar Bharati during his tenure,CEO of India’s largest public sector broadcaster B S Lalli has said there is enough.....

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: March 26, 2009 12:11 am

Dismissing charges of financial irregularities in Prasar Bharati during his tenure,CEO of India’s largest public sector broadcaster B S Lalli has said there is enough “empirical evidence” to show that the organisation had made important headway in every facet of its functioning under his leadership.

Reacting to the reports published in The Sunday Express (March 1) and The Indian Express (March 2) on issues of alleged financial irregularity raised by members of the Prasar Bharati board — mainly Member (Finance) A K Jain and Member (Personnel) V Shivakumar — Lalli said his efforts had brought in transparency in Prasar Bharati and had hurt the “vested interests” of some “disgruntled and unscrupulous elements” in the organisation.

In a letter to The Indian Express,Lalli has given a point-by-point response to the issues raised by the Board members.

His key points:

•Grants received from Government by Prasar Bharati being shown as income in the balance sheet: Done on the direction of Directorate General of Audit Central Revenue. CEO doesn’t prepare accounts. Finance Wing,whose head is Member (Finance),prepares it.

•Board was kept in the dark about key financial decisions regarding coverage of 2010 Commonwealth Games: No financial decisions taken so far. All expenditure of Commonwealth Youth Games,Pune,last year cleared as per the established procedure at different levels.

•Increase in the amount of debtors: Number of defaulting agencies in Doordarshan has reduced from 301 in March 2007 to 251 as in December 2008. Also a significant reduction in the principal amount due. Problem regarding debtors a long-standing one and inherited by the present functionaries.

•Lack of internal audit: Names of 10 reputed firms were obtained from C&AG for outsourcing of internal audit. Short-listing of firms was done. Delay in the final selection and appointment of internal auditors mainly due to the protracted back-and-forth on the matter between the Personnel and Finance Wings.

•Excess expenditure incurred by field offices: So-called excess against budgeted amount substantially lower than alleged. The gap between the budgeted amount and the expenditure on the non-Plan side because of a mis-classification on account of a similar head of account on the Plan side. This could have been rectified in the Finance Wing.

•Placement of money in a fixed deposit at lower interest rate than what was possible: This money was part of a current account in Canara Bank. The withdrawal from this account is approved in the Finance Wing under Member (Finance). The said amount put in a term-deposit by the Bank on its own to give a better interest-rate to the client. CEO learnt of this post-event.

In addition,Lalli has said that he was wrongly quoted in the report as having said that he was willing to correct any of his decisions if it was found to have caused a loss to Prasar Bharati. He said what he meant was that appropriate corrective steps would be taken if any wrong decision had been taken at lower levels. He also claimed that Member (Personnel) V Shivakumar had hence written to him to dissociate himself from the remarks attributed to him in the Board meeting. Lalli has raised questions over the authenticity of the minutes of the Board meeting,saying it was disputed.

Reporters Amitabh Sinha and D K Singh reply:

The two reports on March 1 and 2 were entirely based on the “approved” minutes of Prasar Bharati Board meeting on January 21,2008. A copy of the minutes,which were approved by the Board in a meeting on February 16,is with The Indian Express,and it has the initials of Board chairman Arun Bhatnagar on each page. The two reports quoted the concerns raised by the board members,as per the minutes,in their words. Lalli’s clarification is a response to the issues raised by his own board members. Lalli has been quoted accurately in the report. If Member (Personnel),as Lalli says,has dissociated himself from the remarks attributed to him in the minutes — which were approved by the Board in his presence — it happened after the reports were published in this newspaper.

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