News & Notes 619:Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) September 2015 Report

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619 icon.jpg   News & Notes 619
17 October 2017

Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) September 2015 Report

Regular members: Anandi (Auroville Board of Services), Chali (Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research), David (Forest Group), Jeff (Farm Group), Mandakini (Working Committee), Matriprasad (Auroville Council), Michael (Auroville Unity Fund), Rathinam (Budget Coordination Committee), Sauro (L'avenir d'Auroville), Sonja (Housing Service), Ulli (Auroville Board of Commerce), and Mr. Srinivasmurty (Finance & Administrative Officer, Auroville Foundation; currently Secretary-in-Charge).

Trust & unit topics

The Auroville Board of Commerce (ABC) recommended, and FAMC approved, creation of the commercial unit Deepam Candles with executives P. Murugan and Tlaloc, under Discovery Trust. The stated activities are 'carving candles and incense'. It was noted that this was an outside business for 15 years already. The FAMC inquired about the land and building of the existing company, and its employees, which were all answered in a timely manner.

The ABC recommended, and the FAMC approved, the creation of a new commercial unit, La Maison, with executives Sundar Rajamani and Balaji Sundervinayagam, under Artisana Trust. The stated activities are: 'Auroville products retail shop and cafe'. The location is at: 36 SV Patel Salai, Pondicherry. This is an existing activity under Auroville Activities changing into a unit.

The FAMC approved the long time in-the-works change of Trust for the commercial unit Aqua Dyn, from Aurore Trust to Auroville Exports Trust.

The ABC submitted a proposal “how to expel a unit from a Trust”. This was approved. The ABC and Auroville Board of Services (ABS) are expected to inform units/Trusts accordingly.

The ABC submitted a proposed “ABC Maintenance Guidelines” document for the FAMC members' review and feedback. The members made several points that were shared with the ABC. The ABC will be asked to flush out some details in collaboration with the Budget Coordination Committee (BCC). It was felt that this is a moment to bring much needed clarity to commercial unit maintenances, to what expenses are acceptable, and to bring the ABC maintenance into closer harmony with the City Service maintenance. Also, BCC has been asked to consider adding as an 'in-kind' part of the maintenance the visa expenses (RRO charges). The ABC have responded in detail to the FAMC comments. The review continues in October.

The ABC wrote to the FAMC: “[...] we are of the opinion that the Guest Houses are income-generating units/activities and should not fall any longer under the Auroville Board of Services but should rather fall under the ABC (though the GFCG may continue to exist)”. The FAMC decided to write to the ABC, ABS, and Guest Facilities Coordination Group (GFCG) and ask ABC and ABS if they can come to an agreement, and to welcome GFCG to the dialogue. This is ongoing.

The Aqua Dyn executive team was invited to discuss the future plans to make a joint venture with a French national who has advanced Rs. 50 lakhs for the unit to cover unpaid salaries and other recurring expenditure. Need to understand how to make a joint venture where the Auroville Foundation is taking part with no fixed assets but intellectual property in the form of a patent is involved. An FAMC subgroup was formed to follow the process with all the stakeholders, including Aqua Dyn lawyers. Meetings, contracts/agreements, are in the works and FAMC are apprised of all developments.

FAMC reviewed internal audit note number 4, specifically a question concerning maintenances. FAMC requested details from the named Trusts. Some Trusts responded with the details over the course of the month. Later it was determined that FAMC will make the following statement to the auditor: 'Aurovilian maintenances are not a salary and therefore are not subject to TDS. However Income Tax remains payable in case total income received exceeds income tax limits'.

Finance topics

FAMC met the BCC mid-month to review the proposed 2015-16 budget. On 18/9 FAMC stated, in the presence of the BCC, that it is unacceptable to receive this kind of material (detailed and important information, and topic) at the last moment (10:00 am 18/9), and it will be included in the meeting minutes. The FAMC does not want to simply be a rubber stamp for this process and therefore needs to have the time to review and digest the information prior to a discussion. There was a long discussion and sharing and two primary intended outcomes were identified: a. to approve the increase in adult and child maintenances as proposed; b. to discuss and request in principal approval for the new budget line #31, maintenance in kind new budget. The BCC were informed.

Land topics

The Land Board proposed a city area land purchase for a total of 5.17 acres just off the Auroville Main Road, near Reve Community. This purchase was approved.

L'avenir d'Auroville have submitted a 'proposed plan for safe keeping of under-utilized land in the Auroville Township'. A study group will be created to look deeply into the proposal, and will also be requested to consider the Land Board (LB) report on Auroville lands at risk. The invitation to form a study group is being drafted and an invitation will be distributed soon.

The FAMC was asked by the LB, and confirmed, the temporary caretakership to Priya, steward of Buddha Garden, of the plot directly adjacent. The Farm group is in discussion concerning stewardship. This led to a wider discussion about the difficulties within the Farm group regarding allocation and stewardship of land and how to improve the situation. It was felt that a change in the current policy is needed. Three action items were identified and agreed upon: a. FAMC will review the current draft for appointing stewards, particularly for the Green Belt; b. Farm and Forest Groups will be asked for existing processes followed, in a simple flow chart format; c. Farm and Forest Groups, with the Green Group, will be asked to make proposals to address the challenges. After a review of 'a' and 'b', then 'c' will be executed. FAMC await a response from the Farm group on 'b' above.

Housing topics

(Nothing new this month.)

Other topics

The FAMC and WCom met and discussed: 1. a conclusion to the situation at Eco Service; 2. an irregular asset transfer in New Creation Community; 3. Sustainable Livelihood Institute legal documents and; 4. WCom proposed Centralized Auroville Accounting Service.

Housing Service requested FAMC approval to demolish the Auroville asset known as Big Boys Boarding located in Fraternity Community. It is, and has been for several years, in a bad state of disrepair, and is not suitable for occupancy. Once cleared, the place will be used to build two Aurovilian family housing assets. The request was approved and on 26 September 2015 the FAMC issued a written notice to two non-Aurovilian persons occupying the Auroville asset without permission, providing them until 9 October 2015 to vacate before demolition. At the end of this reporting period, this action was ongoing.

FAMC discussed succession planning: how to transfer executive responsibility, and the need to develop plans for succession of current executives. It was agreed the FAMC will create a study group to explore and research succession plans, to include how to get new, fresh energy into a unit/service, and how to collectively support an Aurovilian moving away from a longheld position. Specifically ABC, ABS, farms and forests, BCC, and residents at large will be invited to participate, based on some knowledge of the wider topic. The study group, composed of no more than 9 people, will be requested to make a concrete and implementable proposal. The invitation to participate is being drafted and will be distributed and published soon.

Following up from previous reports

Earlier here it was reported that the Guest Facilities Coordination Group (GFCG) submitted their 'Conditions for Auroville Home Stays' document for input from the FAMC. In September, after a meeting with the GFCG members, the document was finalized and approved.

FAMC reported in June and July concerning rejuvenation of a Water Supervisory Board. At the beginning of September the FAMC met with Christian T., Kireet, Giulio, Luca, Markus, Tency, Toby, and Tom to review the 2011 paper outlining the Board. Participants' comments were noted by the secretariat and were distributed for reference to all participants. FAMC have agreed not to pursue further, at this time, a Water Supervisory Board, and to give time to see what comes from the newly TDC-formed Water Group comprised of Christian T., Tency, Toby, and Tom.

The continuing conversation with project holders Auroville Health Services (AVHS) concerning an Assisted Living Home FAMC has requested more details concerning financing, and also how a flat will be transferred in the future (i.e. through Housing Service). Promised donations will be confirmed. Ultimately FAMC need to know that 40% of the total estimated cost is secured before construction begins, as is usual for such large projects. All of this was communicated to the project holders. At the end of this reporting period, the FAMC awaited a reply.

FAMC continues to be in contact with the GFCG, and Ramchandra concerning the Home Stay and his outstanding debt due to Auroville. GFCG reported to the FAMC that Ramachandra is known to have people staying in the Home Stay but no money is being channelled through the financial services account; this was confirmed. He still has an outstanding debt to Auroville in the amounts of: Rs. 23,515 (Solar Kitchen); and Rs. 36,631 (Information Centre at Visitors Centre). It is remembered that in June the FAMC demanded Ramachandra to pay Rs. 10,000 per month through year-end to pay off the total due. He agreed to this demand. He however did not make payments in either June or July. FAMC immediately wrote to Ramachandra: a. asking why income from the Home Stay is not being channelled through the Home Stay account when it is known a family has been at the Home Stay; b. he needs to make up the missed payments in June & July; c. remind him of the interest he's due to pay. In response Ramachandra made a Rs. 10,000 payment at the end of September, however he did not respond about channelling Home Stay income through Financial Service. The FAMC wrote to him again to please answer this question. The FAMC await his response.

Update: Martuvam Healing Forest (MHF) is moving from being under the Auroville Village Action Trust to Auroville Projects in the consolidated balance sheet. The MHF financial services account has been re-opened. This is in response to an MHF request; it is a step forward in ongoing interactions, but that does not mean the FAMC questions have been answered. There is more to talk about with the executives. In response to another MHF request, FAMC confirmed with Savi that MHF is a recognized unit for purposes of registering volunteers, however accommodation on site is not permissible at this time.