News & Notes 651:Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) - April & May 2016 Report

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651 icon.jpg   News & Notes 651
11 June 2016

Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) - April & May 2016 Report

Regular members: Anandi (Auroville Board of Services (ABS)), Angela (Working Committee (WCom)), Chali (Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SAIIER)), David (Forest group), Matriprasad (Auroville Council (AVC)), Michael (Auroville Unity Fund), Rathinam (Budget Coordination Committee (BCC)), Sauro (L'avenir d'Auroville), Sonja (Housing Board (HB)), and Ulli (Auroville Board of Commerce (ABC)).
Change in membership: In April Angela replaced Ranjith as the WCom representative.
Temporarily out of station (TOS): Jeff (Farm Group), Sonja (HB) in May
Temporary replacement: Robert (for HB); Ananda (for BCC) in May
Other: Mr. Srinivasmurty (Finance & Administrative Officer, Auroville Foundation; currently Secretary-in-Charge) is no longer attending.

Trust & unit topics

The ABC recommended, and FAMC approved, the executive reappointment for a period of 2 years again of Happy Food executives Gunalakshmi and Ganesh. Boominathan resigned. FAMC requested the ABC to monitor the unit more closely and offer help to try and raise standards and improve performance.

The ABC recommended, and FAMC approved, Earth&Us executive changes as follows: appointment of Aviram, and resignation of Bindu. The current executive is Min.

The ABS recommended, and FAMC approved, a new service unit, AVSLI, with executives Alain B., and Joss, under Sangamam Trust. The activities are:

AVSLI will be the holding agency for the Sustainable Livelihood Institute partnership to be established in collaboration with the state government of Tamil Nadu. The partnership will be constituted and legalized as an independent Society with equal participation between Auroville and the government agency. AVSLI will also undertake other activities related to rural livelihoods and development activities as project and initiatives over a period of time.

The FAMC approved this with the understanding that a third executive will be proposed and approved in the next few months.

ABS recommended change of unit name of Welcome in AV to “Host”, and Guest House Umbrella to “Volo”. The FAMC inquired if the name changes were necessary and commented that the name 'host' has several connotations, and ask what the meaning of ‘Volo’ was. It was thereafter clarified that 'Host' stands for Home Stays and 'Volo' for Volunteer Lodging. FAMC approved the unit name changes to “Home Stays” and “Volunteer Lodgings” respectively.

ABS recommended, and FAMC approved, the executive resignation of Manfred from Integrated Health Services. The other executives are: Ruslan, Jocelyn and Sumeet.

ABS recommended, and FAMC approved, closure of the unit Auroville Water Harvest under CSR Trust. This is with effect from 31 March 2016.

ABS recommended, and FAMC approved, closure of the unit Celebration Guest House under Guest House Trust. This is with effect from 31 March 2015.

FAMC took up the application of Discovery Guest House again and inquired with Karna and Uma concerning the building assets under the care of the unit, Discovery. FAMC gave its support that Discovery Guest House register under the Guest House Trust. One dilapidated building has been requested to be demolished. FAMC have written to L'avenir d'Auroville their support of this request.

Some members of the FAMC and BCC met as a subgroup to review Pour Tous Purchasing Service (PTPS). The FAMC and BCC agree that PTPS is a service unit and changes are needed to bring it into alignment with that focus. The BCC took up the follow-up works and is in contact with the executives. Related to this, in April BCC wrote to the PTPS executives and made a public announcement about changing things at PTPS. The email and announcement inferred that the FAMC and BCC were in agreement about the process of informing both PTPS executives and the community. This was not accurate. In response, the FAMC wrote a statement to the BCC that the FAMC agreed in principle about the change needed however FAMC clearly stated it did not agree with the process proposed by the BCC. The FAMC would have preferred the BCC communication to be more accurate and clear on this point.

FAMC requested Stephanie to analyze how the 20% contribution on turnover from the guest houses, since its implementation in August 2009, impacted the income of the guest houses and their reserves, as well as the overall Auroville economy. One main observation of Stephanie's report is that if it is true that collection, expenses and balance are not clearly shown by accountants on the balance sheets this must be brought to the attention of the executives. It was noted that Home Stays were not included. Clarity and consistency is needed about what exactly the 20% is calculated on “currently just room and no breakfast for most”. The report and FAMC observations were shared with the BCC and Guest Facilities Coordination Group (GFCG), and they were asked for their comments and observations. FAMC also wrote to the BCC stating its support for the 20% to be charged on bed and breakfast. FAMC await their reply.

Stephanie, in response to another FAMC request, submitted a Home Stay report for 2015-16. FAMC forwarded the report to the GFCG and asked if they have any comments. It was noted the report should be done again after 1 year. FAMC sent hearty thanks to Stephanie for all her detailed and helpful work on both reports. The GFCG responded that they'll give their feedback after the summer break.

In conversation with the WCom the FAMC recognized that Auroville needs an accounting support service, to include training and consultancy, for accounting related activities including internal and CAG audit processes. A consistent set of structures and functions (accounting code) is needed as well as a coordinating team who are not taking on accounting jobs through this platform. FAMC has invited knowledgeable individuals to look at accounting related topics such as:

A. expenses / code (mechanics);
B. procedures (dissemination of information);
C. current accounting units;
D. audit group (with guidelines).

The group has met once, and will take a break until July when they'll continue their discussions.

It was agreed to move the former Progress Landscape office, now a residence, from the Auroville Child Development balance sheet to the Housing Service (HS) balance sheet. The housing asset will be made available for stewardship by the HS. FAMC informed Andre T. of this action.

Artisana Trust and ABC Trust changed auditor for the 2015-16 fiscal year. After being notified by the auditor that the change had taken place the FAMC advised the trustees on the steps to be taken. It should be noted by trustees that when they wish to change the auditor, advance notice should be provided in writing, the current auditor must provide a letter of 'no objection', any outstanding bills must be paid, and all units under the Trust must use the same auditor and be in agreement with the change.

In April FAMC were advised of a new depreciation method to be implemented in the 2015-16 audit year. After some clarifying communications with the Foundation office, FAMC decided to use the current method and asked for clear guidelines, to be provided well in advance, for the new method to be applied in 2016-17. In mid-May FAMC reviewed the AVC-circulated draft of service tax guidelines for adult learning activities. FAMC gave its feedback to the AVC at the end of the month with the advice that the subgroup gets the opinion of a chartered accountant.

Finance topics

In April the WCom requested an Rs. 1,5 crore overdraft, for ongoing construction and general needs, as an advance on the funds from the Government of India (GoI) grant which will be released later in the fiscal year. This was approved.

The Implementation and Monitoring Group (IMG) requested an additional loan of Rs. 77,220.70. Rs. 3 lakhs was approved in December 2015: Rs. 2,42,020.70 has been utilized; estimate to finish the work: Rs. 1,35,200. This was approved.

In May ABC recommended for Progress Landscape and Construction a Rs. 25 lakhs loan to complete the renovation work of Swagatham building for the new office. This was approved.

HS request a housing loan for David and Nadja who are in process of transferring housing assets to move. They require a loan of Rs 22 lakhs which will be paid after the transfer of the Luminosity apartment (Nadja) or the Angira's Garden house (David). This was approved.

Land topics

The Land Board (LB) submitted a proposal to utilize some of an unspecified donation, at the discretion of the FAMC to allocate, for land protection for fencing at Auroville's Nature Camp in Kavunji. This was approved.

LB proposed to purchase land in the greenbelt (Mathur revenue village 1.34 acres), North of Spa Equilibre. This was approved.

LB requested the support of the FAMC to survey land known as Brihaspathi Farm. When the LB surveyor arrived on site he was not allowed entry. It is noted, the steward was not there at that time. Subsequently FAMC advised the Farm group that all farm stewards are expected to cooperate with the LB surveyor, and to inform all farm stewards of the same. It was shared with the Farm group that the LB needs to ascertain the boundary, the type of land/typography, present land utilization, and total extent with a view to the possibility of (partial) land exchange. Farm group then requested clarification if a land exchange negotiation was proposed and FAMC stated clearly that no proposals had been made by the LB. FAMC encouraged the Farm group members to speak directly with the LB about their concerns. At the end of May LB requested an appointment to survey the land; the survey is pending.

The LB asked the FAMC to comment on an email from Balu (Mohanam) for papers requested Auroville Electrical Service for an electrical line to the new Mohanam Cultural and Heritage Centre being built. LB cite earlier questions of the FAMC about the land and the various activities. FAMC previously scrutinized the original land allocation by Land Resources Management (LRM) and have accepted the current plots totaling 5.87 (as surveyed by the LB) is the whole area of Bamboo Research Centre/Mohanam. This is the location of the approved Centre. LB were informed.

In early May members of the HB requested a decision be made about the assets in Felicity, and Happiness. Ongoing unclarity about what will happen there makes their work difficult with housing asset maintenance and repairs, and house-sitting arrangements. The FAMC members considered: A. need to agree on 'land use' in these two locations and; B. need to talk about putting a call out to the community for proposals. Later in the month the FAMC met with members of AVC, HB, LB and WCom. It was agreed that the conversation needs to be put to the wider community. It was suggested to make a presentation to share facts, details, and proposals. Any development ideas need to be well researched. FAMC will consider the next step and follow-up. The next action was to get a map with details about the area/space. A map has been received. A further review is pending.

Housing topics

FAMC met with the Sunship project holders about how best to work within Auroville current practices. Robert from HS will be their direct contact person. The FAMC emphasized the needs and benefits of the project holders collaborating with the HS on details such as the housing asset transfer agreement with the new stewards, and having house-sitting agreements when an Aurovilian or Friend of Auroville steward is out of station for an extended period of time. The FAMC requested also one contact person for the HS from the project team. The FAMC appreciate the work of the project team, and the housing project seems to be going smoothly.

FAMC were informed that Rauf made a verbal request that the housing asset in Aurodam, of which he was the steward, be allocated to Auroville-born Cameron who is presently 16 years old. After meeting with Auralice, Bobby, Claire, and Divya it was agreed that Clare, Erissa and Cameron will live in Rauf's house. The house that will be vacated by them, also in Aurodam, will be used by the HS on a temporary basis for Newcomers or Aurovilians in agreement with HS and the Aurodam residents. Stewardship and other occupancy agreements will be drawn up with HS. It will be stated in writing that Cameron has until she is 25 years old to inform if she would like to live in one or the other of the two Aurodam housing assets, provided she is an Aurovilian.

During April and May the FAMC was reviewing the situation of a housing asset in Angiras Garden. It was reported the representative of the TOS steward has been requesting money from the house-sitters, allegedly without the consent of the steward, in addition to the normal contribution as agreed and set forth in a house-sitting agreement facilitated by the HS. FAMC continue to work towards clarity on the facts of the situation with the HS and the steward. The house-sitters were instructed to not give any more money directly to the representative of the steward.

The residents of Samasti were concerned about the allocation of one housing asset and contacted the FAMC. The HS submitted its report to the FAMC. It was agreed to send the HS report to the Samasti residents stating that it seems they do not have all the information and perhaps a meeting together with the HS, in person, would assist in a better communication. In May the Samasti residents reached an agreement which was accepted by the HS.

In April the HS/HB requested clarification from FAMC about the situation of Jackie & Nelis, and the house-sitter LiFang, in Surrender. Jackie & Nelis requested compensation of Rs. 3,50,000 for renovation work done the last time they were here, a couple years ago. They are not planning to return to Auroville. FAMC agreed the Rs. 3,12,000 that they received directly from LiFang (current house-sitter) will be considered as an advance on the compensation, added to the Rs. 3,50,000 they're requesting now. Finally, an outstanding housing loan in the amount of Rs. 1,15,825 has been waived. This is agreeable to the FAMC only with a written document that they hold no further claim to the housing asset or the housing asset transfer value in case they decide to return to Auroville. This has been communicated to Jackie & Nelis, who have agreed.

HS/HB recommended Vika become a member of the HB, representing HS, and replacing Satyakam. FAMC approved Vika to replace Satyakam on the HB, on a 3-month trial basis as per the mandate.

AVC requested FAMC input on its recommendation that Aurovici not continue for another term in the HB as one of the three community at large representatives. The HB does not agree and made a few separate appeals stating their reasons for Aurovici to continue on the HB. After quite a lot of deliberation the FAMC accepted the Housing Board's insistence that Aurovici continue as a member. Noted: Aurovici's first 3 year term was February 2012-15; since then he has been active in the HB for an additional 1 year already, so has 2 more years of a subsequent term, until February 2018 to serve. FAMC informed AVC and HB.

FAMC reviewed the situation at Sacred Groves in both April and May. FAMC have recently advised the project holders to dramatically change their approach. FAMC await their response.

Other topics

The FAMC and Working Committee (WCom) met and discussed:

  1. Atithi Griha and Swagatham guest houses moving from the Guest House Trust into the Bharat Nivas Trust
  2. Hospitality Trust deed to be re-drafted with further input
  3. Economy Think Tank proposal
  4. Accounting Service proposal (see more under units section above).

FAMC asked the 50th Anniversary Planning Team for details about proposals that incurred recurring costs such as maintenance. The team responded with detailed project proposal information and upon a verbal report by one team member it was decided that for the time being the FAMC doesn't have any further questions or concerns.

In mid-April Elisa and Niva gave a presentation on a proposed Appeal Process of working group decisions. FAMC members gave some feedback which was incorporated. At the end of this reporting period FAMC were requested to clarify one point in their feedback and due to the summer break, the topic is on hold until after July.

In 2014 the Auroville Foundation entered into a partnership with Airstream. It was reported to the FAMC that it is no longer necessary to be in this partnership, and therefore Mr. Srinivasmurty, Secretary-in-Charge, should be requested to withdraw from the partnership. This was approved and Mr. Srinivasmurty advised.

The International Zone Coordination Team (IZCT) requested funds for fundraising from the money left by the former fund raising cell. FAMC had several questions such as who would be responsible for accounting; who would make fund utilization decisions; where is the office; who is involved in the fund-raising; what are planned fund-raising activities. FAMC sent their questions to the IZCT and await their reply.

In mid-May AVC invited FAMC input on a revised Leaving Auroville Fund, and Leaving Auroville Fund Allowance process. FAMC had nothing to add or change and informed the AVC.

Savi requested the FAMC to review the volunteer contribution policy. During the discussion it was remembered that the policy was created by the BCC, therefore BCC were requested to review and assess the policy since it's been in place for 2 years. A wider team, like that which created it, should be involved in this review and assessment. FAMC asked: is it accomplishing what it was meant to? How much money is being contributed through this policy? FAMC recommended that BCC consider to: reinstate the contribution waiver; create categories of volunteers considering the whole spectrum of volunteers, I.e. those registered with Savi, those who are not, and that some receive remuneration, some do not; create flexibility in the policy. Finally, BCC were requested to look into volunteer remuneration as part of the overall review. FAMC offered to meet with the BCC if needed.

Following up from previous reports

Previously it was reported the FAMC were in conversation with ABC and ABS concerning the registration of Auromode Apartments. In April the FAMC reconfirmed its decision that it be registered under Guest House Trust. In May the executives requested it be registered under the newly created Hospitality Trust. FAMC will review this request.

In April the FAMC formed a joint subgroup with FAMC, BCC, AVC and HRT members to review maintenance. The subgroup met once and due to some people going out, they postponed a second meeting until July/August.

In follow-up with the eateries, FAMC had the idea to either request that a percentage on turnover contribution be made to the City Services budget, or at least a 25% discount would be given to all Aurovilians. The BCC was asked for its comments which were provided at the end of May. FAMC still need to review their input.

In the February and March report it was shared the FAMC and WCom propose to create a Hospitality Trust. This has been done and in the last two months the Trust Deed has been written to comply with the new Regulations. The two trustees are Daniel E., and Susan S.. More trustees will be added shortly.