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March 30, 2023 10:29 pm | Updated 10:34 pm IST – CHENNAI
Palanivel Thiaga Rajan | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan
The erstwhile AIADMK regime increased the Governor’s Discretionary Fund from ₹50 lakh to ₹5 crore twice and, eventually, it was transferred to a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Akshaya Patra, for implementing a breakfast programme, Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan said in the Assembly on Thursday.
He alleged lack of transparency and accountability in the handling of increased allocation to the Governor’s Discretionary Fund and said such transfer of funds from the State exchequer to other accounts raised doubts on whether funds were used for political purposes or for benefiting any political party.
The food “prepared without garlic and onions” by Akshaya Patra in “their own style” was served to the government school students with the government’s funds through the government machinery, the Minister said, intervening a speech by AIADMK’s S.P. Velumani (Thondamuthur). “It cannot be even be called nutritious meals,” he contended.
During 2019-20, a sum of ₹4 crore was provided to Akshaya Patra in two instalments. A sum of ₹1 crore was provided to the NGO the following fiscal, the Minister said, adding that the Discretionary Fund was diverted to other heads for funding the programme, much against the norms laid down by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Such transfer of funds from the State exchequer to “invisible” accounts escaped audit scrutiny, he said, adding that State funds used by the government or the Governor/the Raj Bhavan must follow the same norms.
Earlier, Mr. Velumani had said that much before the DMK government launched a breakfast scheme for government school students, the erstwhile AIADMK regime implemented the scheme in association with an NGO.
The Minister said the breakfast programme implemented by the then AIADMK government along with the NGO using Governor’s discretionary funds was “not democratic” and not in line with democratic traditions, since government funds of ₹5 crore was utilised but without any transparency and accountability.
When Leader of the Opposition Edappadi K. Palaniswami rose to defend the programme and sought to know what was wrong in providing food to people, Mr. Rajan said he was not against feeding people, but only the way in which government funds were “diverted without accountability.”
Leader of the House Duraimurugan intervened to say: “Only the Governor can answer.” A few other remarks made by him were expunged by the Chair on his request.
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