Central Square Foundation says any question of conflict of interest does not arise.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has outsourced some of its educational projects to the Central Square Foundation (CSF), a non-profit organisation. Sources claim that there is a “conflict of interest” involved in this as the founder of CSF is also a co-director of Ashoka University, a private univeristty.
Sources allege that by outsourcing projects to CSF, the MHRD is undermining the role of the EdCIL (India) Limited, a Miniratna category PSU, primarily responsible for supplying expertise to the ministry.
A source close to the MHRD said: “Despite knowing the fact that the founder of CSF, Ashish Dhawan, is also a co-founder of Ashoka University, and that his position might influence public education policy, the MHRD has awarded various consultancy projects to the CSF.” However, replying to a mail from The Sunday Guardian, Shally Makin, official spokesperson of the CSF, denied any conflicts of interest. “The CSF is a not-for-profit philanthropic foundation focused on improving the quality of school education in India. To achieve this, we support early stage of policy formation with grant-funding, conduct independent research and support governments on certain initiatives,” the email reads.
“We have engaged, and are also currently working with, both the Central government and few state governments (such as Delhi, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh etc). Our projects are focused on improving learning outcomes of students, which is also a priority area for the governments. We work on these projects completely pro bono; CSF does not receive money (or any other benefit) from the government for input or support that it provides,” Makin’s mail reads.
“Lastly, CSF has a narrow mandate of working on higher education and it is only working on school education. We have never engaged any official from the Department of Higher Education. Therefore, any question of conflict of interest does not arise,” Makin’s reply added.
Repeated attempts to get the MHRD’s reaction failed.
Rajesh Jha, an Executive Council member of Delhi University, also a teacher, however said, “It’s shocking that an NGO is being given the consultancy work when the MHRD has an excellent institution, EdCIL, which is a revenue earner Miniratna for providing the same expertise that of the CSF.”