Misuse of government funds can only be described as corruption. Union civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and steel minister Beni Prasad Verma stand accused of misusing government funds for political purposes. In both cases, the modus operandi was the same—force the public sector undertakings under their command to spend a major portion of their funds meant for corporate social responsibility (CSR) on the development of their constituencies. Accordingly, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has spent `10 crore, which is 63 per cent of its CSR funds, to build an “akhara” or wrestling hall and on other projects in the minister’s Baghpat constituency.
The AAI was also liberal with funds in undertaking construction work in the minister’s son Jayant Chaudhary’s constituency. The steel minister showed little compunction in forcing the steel companies under him to spend `2 crore from their CSR money to build a privately-run school in his constituency. A parliamentary committee had in a report earlier charged the steel ministry of spending a lot of CSR funds in two districts of UP. By no stretch of the imagination can building an “akhara” be described as CSR activity. Had the AAI been serious, it would have utilised the money for any project that would have benefited the people in the areas close to the airports. In both cases, the PSUs were over-eager to please political bosses. In the process they have forgotten their commitment to use public funds only for common good.
Misuse of CSR funds is rampant in both private and public sectors. Thus, over the years, people have lost their faith in such spending. Those managing such companies are often found to be exploiting loopholes in the system to feather their own nests. This has forced the government to prepare proper guidelines on spending CSR money and notify them. Meanwhile, the government should order an inquiry into the misuse of funds and punish the guilty and not wait for the CAG report before taking action.