With funds touching crores, temple authorities have allegedly failed to meet auditors’ demand for compliance for the past three years.
Right to Information (RTI) sourced audit reports of some of Bengaluru’s Class-A temples reveal that the amount of funds declared objectionable by auditors have been on a rise for the past three to four years. Authorities also allege that the temples failed to send follow-up reports to settle the objections raised.
Most of the concerns refer to the common pool fund, or the general collection fund, that these temples maintain out of hundi collections.
According to the statements, auditors flagged funds amounting to Rs 4.7 crore at Sri Banashankaramma Temple. Here, their funds saw a stark rise over the years — from Rs 4,697 in 1995-96 to Rs 1.60 crore in 2016-17, to Rs 1.87 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 50,54,264 in 2018-19.
Other findings in the Banashankaramma audit report point towards missing documents related to the interest rates and fixed deposits the temple holds in state-run banks. The objectionable amount with respect to these deposits stands at Rs 42 crore, and Rs 47 lakh with respect to the general collection fund.
As per the norm, temple authorities are obligated to respond with a compliance report within three months of auditors raising such concerns. According to the Banashankaramma audit report, the temple has not initiated any follow-ups to settle the objections between 1994 and 2019.
However, a temple official claimed they had filed a report to the auditors in 2021.
“I’m not sure if any report was filed to settle all the previous years’ objections, but we did file one for 2021, in October last year,” the official added.
Auditors tackled similar such affairs with Sri Prasanna Veeranjaneya Swami Temple. Its report suggests that the temple had not cooperated with previous auditors for a seemingly unscrupulous amount of Rs 43 lakh in 2017. The temple received Rs 63 lakh from hundi collections in 2018-19 and Rs 50 lakh from other services and offerings.
Similarly, the income and expenditure report of Sri Prasanna Veeranjaneya Swamy Temple suggests that it spent most of its income on flower d0ecorations, buttermilk, furniture, uniforms, computers, electrical equipment and salaries of temple employees.
The amount received from the hundi collections is generally deposited in a savings account, spent on dasoha(a tradition of offering food to devotees), or directed towards a common/general account for temple development.
Niraj Dhumal, a chartered accountant, said hundi collections are meant for the welfare of the society at large.
“It should primarily be used for healthcare, food and education for the needy,” said Dhumal, adding that the donations are divided into ‘corpus funds’ and ‘other funds’. “Providing assistance to the needy and spending on their healthcare and similar such needs falls in the ‘other funds’ category, while ‘corpus funds’ are specifically created to construct buildings, another temple and for other such infrastructural purposes.”
An official from Banashankaramma temple explained that most of the dasoha or common pool fund is used to develop the temple premises, provide food for darshan, maintain the housing quarters of priests and administrative work.
Furthermore, audit reports of the Shri Valiyangapathy group of temples in Bengaluru suggest that temple authorities failed to take action on the objectionable Rs 3.83 crore raised between 1995 and 2019. This, in addition to failing to produce a minute register, payments register and classified receipts. The auditors raised questions regarding the cost of staff and other expenses incurred, as they were less than what was specified in the balance sheet.
A show cause notice is issued to the concerned temples and they have to revert back as soon as possible, an official with Hindu Charitable Religious and Charitable Endowment Department. Most of the temples have started doing the same but a lot of them haven’t complied yet, he said.
The official said that the department, on a number of occasions, has sent inspection teams to the temples whenever they have found serious objections in the audit reports. “For the past two years the temple audits have been conducted by the State Accounts department and our role is to settle the objections raised in the audit,” the official said.
A feworganizations have been demanding external audits of temple funds to increase transparency and accountability. In a recent move by the government, the audits were shifted from Hindu Charitable Religious and Charitable Department to the Finance Department.
The Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Department manages as many as 34,563 temples across Karnataka. These are segregated into three categories, with temples earning more than Rs 25 lakh placed under Class-A, those getting less than Rs 25 lakh but more than Rs 5 lakh under Class-B, and temples receiving less than Rs 5 lakh placed under Class-C.
In December 2021, the Karnataka government had issued a notice to bring forth more transparency in the management of temple funds, to ensure that donations from devotees are ethically used. Earlier this year, Chief Minister BasvarajBommai also announced project ‘DaivaSankalpa’, exclusively for the development of Class-A temples in Karnataka.