Thursday, 9 January 2014

The art of grant management

By K.S.R. Anirudha

Bhoja unearthed a wondrous throne from the earth, only to find that he had to ascend umpteen steps even before he could attempt to sit on the throne. He was bombarded with stories of King Vikramaditya’s greatness by the angel dolls perched on every step. The Government is like the throne and the applicant for a grant is like Bhoja. Several schemes, a number of circulars, government orders, inter-departmental instructions, minutes of meetings, directions of civil servants, questions from under secretaries, rules of the core committees – the list is endless. In short, you have to be an Arjuna to crack the chakravyooham.

If the donor is the sovereign [the government] and the grantee the subject, then the grant is not going to be an easy deal, believe me! Accounting, accountability and an accountant cannot be done without. It will be unfair to blame the government for stipulating and framing guidelines qualifying for and continuing to receive grants, because the objective is to eliminate undeserving institutions and individuals.

The Ministry of Culture, through the Dept. of Culture, releases several grants including salary grants, production grants, construction/ infrastructure grants and the like. The apex body of culture, namely the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, which again comes under the Ministry of Culture, also releases similar grants which are much less in quantum. The rules in all the heads of the application are very similar.

Let us take a dance institution as the grantee for an illustration. To qualify for a grant under any scheme of the government, the institution has to be registered. It must be either a registered society under the Societies Registration Act 1860 (read with Tamil Nadu Societies registration Act?) or a Trust registered with the Director of Income-tax (Exemptions) registered under Sec. 12A under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Such a registered society or trust should have existed three years immediately preceding the date of application and also filed its income tax returns for the three-year period after duly having its statement of accounts audited in the respective assessment years. If this is the technical side, there is also the artistic side because the object of the grant is to promote art and culture of the country and not immaculate accountants. So there should be some artistic work, contributing to the furtherance of Indian culture, happening in the institution.

The conditions that follow the preconditions are by themselves an ordeal to unravel. The grant whatsoever is usually a reimbursement. The organisation/ institution cannot function as a saprophyte on the grant in itself, that is, the institution has to prove financial independence and cannot function as if the grant is the only support. This is the reason why the government makes sure that they have an idea of the financial position of the organisation for the three years preceding the release of the grant. Apart from the routine vouchers, audit, filing of IT returns, etc., the grantee institution has to execute an indemnity bond which is ordained by the President of India [to which he is privy], promising to repay the principal with the interest in vogue from the date of receipt of the grant up to the date of repayment if there is the slightest cause for suspicion of any malpractice in the activities of the organisation scrutinised by the Government.

The grantee institution must anyhow have an auditor with sound knowledge as he plays a vital role in “grant management”. At times he will have to issue, after due audit, a “grant utilisation certificate” which in turn has to be sent to the Ministry of Culture/ The Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in order to obtain the complete release of the grant, respectively.

In salary grants, there are one guru and several teachers/ artists. Following instances of certain vested interest groups causing irregularities, the rules have been made more stringent.

Tips to remember
  • An institution must maintain clean books of accounts with a qualified accountant under the double entry system of accounting and file vouchers, and receipts then and there. It should not have any cash transactions for amounts more than Rs. 10,000 at any given point in time. A cash book must be maintained for these transactions with supporting bills and vouchers.
  • The activities of the organisation must be documented periodically using a calendar.
  • Make sure that the organisation is financially independent (without pocketing fees of students into personal accounts) and does not thrive on grants. 
  • Maintaining accounting standards is only incidental to artistic creativity and contribution, as the primary objective of all grants is to nurture and promote excellence in the field of arts and not cross verify accounting standards.
For the sake of brevity, I have dealt with only the key points and not the whole long process of the ‘grant-o-tsavam’. In conclusion, “Documents speak louder than anything else”. Any grant management requires close monitoring and meticulous accounting while retaining promotion of art as the main focus.

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