Prasar Bharati Funds Were Blocked Because MoU Not Signed: I&B Min

Prasar Bharati Chairman A Surya Prakash reportedly said that he pay staff salaries out of its contingency funds.

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File photo of Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry released Rs 208 crore for the salaries of the employees of Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) on 28 February, Prasar Bharati CEO SS Vempati said on Sunday, 4 March.

Vempati's remarks came two days after news webite 'The Wire' quoted Prasar Bharati Chairman A Surya Prakash as saying that the public broadcaster had to pay staff salaries for January and February out of its contingency funds as the ministry had not released the funds.

Vempati reportedly took to Twitter to clarify that:

Noticed reports in sections of media on non-disbursal of salaries to DD and AIR staff. Rs 208 cr towards salaries were released on the 28 February 2018. Attempts to create panic malafide. PB has so far received Rs 1989 crore from MIB as grants-in-aid for salaries during FY2017-18.
SS Vempati, Prasar Bharati CEO

However, the tweet did not specify the month for which the funds meant for salaries was disbursed by the government.

But hours later, he put out another tweet which read: “Rs 208 crores were released by @prasarbharati towards salaries for on 28th February 2018 from IEBR reserves.”

“Sinister Campaign”, Says I&B Ministry

Following The Wire's report on her "ongoing stand-off with Prasar Bharati," I&B minister Smriti Irani has put out a clarification via PIB slamming the report as "a deliberate, sinister, motivated campaign".

In the clarification, Smriti Irani asserted that the salary funds have not been withheld "as a retaliation to Prasar Bharati not obeying certain dictates of the ministry" but because the autonomous body did not sign an MoU with the ministry.

“As per the provision of GFR, any autonomous organisation receiving Grant-in-Aid must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry, clearly bringing out the physical and financial targets with timelines for activities to be done by utilising the said grant during that financial year. For the record, irrespective of repeated reminders from the Ministry, no MoU has been signed by Prasar Bharti.”

The Wire had previously quoted Prasar Bharati Chairman A Surya Prakash in saying that the public broadcaster had to pay staff salaries for January and February out of its contingency funds as the ministry had not released the funds for salary. This was due to a standoff caused by difference between the I&B minister Smriti Irani and Prasar Bharati, The Wire report said.

The report also alleged Prasar Bharati will run out of money by April if the standoff continued.

I&B Ministry’s clarification.
I&B Ministry’s clarification.
(Photo Courtesy: Rosy/Twitter)

However, as reported by The Wire following the original report and the government's reaction, Prasar Bharati souces said that Irani upbraided Prakash for "leaking" details of the salary crisis to "anti nationals." Although, in order to keep the dispute from escalating, Irani also sought a compromise.

Prakash wanted the issue to be taken up by the parliament, the report said.

As reported by The Wire, Prasar Bharati sources claimed that even though the General Financial Rules (GFR) governing the disbursal of sanctioned amounts were amended in February 2017 to incorporate a provision for an MoU between all auntonomous bodies which receive over Rs 5 crore annually as budgetary support, and the ministries in charge, there is at the present moment no final draft of the document.

This is owing to the fact that there is an ongoing dispute between the minstry and the Prasar Bhartati over its contents. Neither has the PB stopped repeatedly asking for explannation from the ministry about this MoU, claimed the sources, nor has the PB finalised or approved the draft.

Prasar Bharati sources also informed The Wire that the MoU, if signed by the broadcaster, would allow Smriti Irani to act as "super censor" of content.


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