NGOs receiving substantial funds from government are covered under RTI Act
The Himachal State Information Commission (SIC) has ruled that all “substantially” financed NGOs (receiving over Rs 1 crore from state or government grants) are covered under the definition of public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 and such organisations must make their annual ‘income and expenditures’ public. In an order passed by the division bench comprising of Chief Information Commissioner Bhim Sen and Information Commissioner K D Batish, it was held that the Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (HPVHA) is a public authority under RTI. The SIC directed the organisation to appoint its public information officer (PIO) within 10 days. The SIC observed that as per the provisions of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Act 1971, HPVHA is eligible for audit by the CAG.
Hearing a complaint filed by Deepak Sharma, the SIC analysed the funding details of the HPVHA, which was over Rs 1.22 crore during 2008-2009. The SIC also ruled that in cases where the state does not provide substantial grants (Rs 25 lakh or less) to NGOs, the state or a government agency will be appointed as public authority, which will be required to provide information. The SIC further observed that “If an NGO is not substantially financed by the government and also raises funds by collections from public contribution and it performs functions of a public nature that are ordinarily performed by the government or its agency, it is desirable that the NGO voluntarily place maximum information regarding its activities on its website”.
This landmark order is likely to have wide implications for the government-funded NGOs and organisations run on public contributions.