MEA puts on ‘hold’ opening of new cultural centres abroad
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has reportedly decided to ‘put on hold’ on opening new Indian Cultural Centres (ICCs) abroad in the wake of ‘alleged’ gross irregularities found over the functioning of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) during the UPA regime.
Sources said, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, after being briefed by the officers in the cultural wing on ICCR’s alleged misconduct, has decided to have a series of meetings on encouraging transparency before implementing new initiatives including setting up of more ICCs.
‘She had a meeting with the senior officials over several issues on foreign policies and financial irregularities at ICCR. She has categorically instructed his officials to maintain clarity in every initiative taken by her ministry,’ a MEA sources said.
Swaraj always had a ‘zero tolerance’ over corruption and this was evident when she has raised her voice with the induction of former controversial Karnataka BJP minister BS Sriramulu into the party fold.
Recently, she came to know that ICCR reportedly suppressed facts over actual expenditure in sending artists abroad for exhibition or to perform during the previous government’s regime.
‘It was also come to her knowledge that there was no uniform rule for sending artists abroad in terms of expenses and facilities given to them. She became surprise to know that some of the ICCs were opened in other countries without following the protocol and actual procedures,’ he said.
When asked to elaborate more in to the matter, he said, ‘There was an approval of opening 14 ICCs abroad. However, the council went ahead with 17 ICCs. Our minister came to know that the Council has already planned for another eight additional ICCs, without obtaining the required approval from Ministry of Finance (MoF). She has immediately asked officials to put all the files on hold. It will only after proper screening; schemes and proposals will be executed on a priority basis.’
She has instructed her officials to monitor budget allocation issues to ICCR in assistance with the MoF. ‘We will soon inform the concern officials in ICCR to prepare a realistic and actual expenditure, which should be cleared by MEA and MoF before opening up with new projects or initiatives. They will also be asked to place annual report on accounts with substantiate bills and documents,’ he said.
It is likely that the MEA secretary will soon have a meeting with the ICCR president Karan Singh on this issue.