News & Notes 664:Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) - August 2016 Report

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664 icon.jpg   News & Notes 664
10 September 2016

Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) - August 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 (AVUF)), Rathinam (Budget Coordination Committee (BCC)), Sauro (L'avenir d'Auroville), Ulli (Auroville Board of Commerce (ABC)) and Yuval (Housing Board (HB)). Temporarily out of station (TOS): Chali, and Jeff (Farm group)

Trust & Unit topics

The ABC recommended, and FAMC approved, the executive reappointment (after initial 2 year term) of Anbu and Veerappan at Akriti.

The ABC recommended, and FAMC approved, the executive reappointment (after initial 2 year term) of Andre and Mariappan at Amano.

The ABC recommended, and FAMC approved, the executive reappointment (after initial 2 year term) of Julia at Sciro Pizza. The other executives are Antonio and Cinzia.

The ABC recommended, and FAMC approved, the executive reappointment (after initial 2 year term) of E. Saravanaraman and Vijaya of Vijayasri Consultancy.

The ABS recommended, and FAMC approved, Auroville Security Service executive changes. New appointments: Sam, Carlos, and Srijita. Resignations: Ramesh, Anandamayi and Shahar.

The ABS recommended appointing Jacques T. as an additional executive of Auroville Road Service. The current executives are Alain G., and Manickam. After two separate sharings the FAMC members concluded to not approve this appointment. FAMC shared with both the ABS and Auroville Road Service that while Jacques' skills as an on-site manager in the Road Service are acknowledged and appreciated, he is not viewed as having the requisite skills in finance or communications.

FAMC approved Atithi Griha guest house and Swagatam guest house, both located in the Bharat Nivas campus, be moved from the Guest House Trust to the Bharat Nivas Pavilion of India Trust.

It was reported, and confirmed, that Auromics transformed the former Bijou building located in the Industrial Zone, into a boutique. The FAMC wrote to Bobby that when that building was first vacated there was a request to change its use into residential, to which FAMC did not agree. Then it was reminded that Bobby informed the FAMC the location would be used as an extension of the Auromics workshop. The FAMC agreed to this use of the building and not that it would be a boutique. FAMC further shared with Bobby that this decision she's made, without consulting neither the FAMC, with whom the agreement was made, nor L'avenir d'Auroville, who is responsible for overall planning in the Industrial Zone, puts an extra burden on the Industrial Zone. FAMC now anticipate an increase in day visitors and traffic with this unplanned activity. Further it creates a precedent for other commercial activities to also set up their own sales outlet, etc... FAMC regret that Bobby made this decision, and do not agree with a boutique having been established in the Industrial Zone. Bobby was requested to make note of this. The FAMC communication was copied to the ABC.

Finance topics

Government of India (GoI) Plan Grant subgroup requested an increase in overdraft for the second installment of the GoI plan grant 2016-17 from Rs. 2 crores to Rs. 3 crores so as not to delay any on-going projects. This was approved.

Shraddhavan requested a credit line of Rs. 20 lakhs to continue the on-going construction of Sangam Hall at Savitri Bhavan. The FAMC were happy to be able to provide the project with a credit line of Rs. 10 lakhs in the trust this will be sufficient until the project holders may obtain the other funds needed by donations or otherwise.

Land topics

FAMC met with the Land Board (LB) once in August to discuss a purchasing strategy and financing plan to obtain certain greenbelt lands (about 15 acres). // Also the LB made some suggestions about putting on hold any Auroville land lease/use for a while. FAMC agreed and will be talking about it with the Working Committee. // The LB requested support concerning Waves community, the steward of which has since vacated for various reasons. The FAMC resolved to request the Housing Service (HS) to find a temporary caretaker until a long-term solution is found. // When asked, the LB confirmed it would like the area known as Service Farm to be kept available for possible land exchange. The FAMC are due to meet with representatives of the Farm group about Service Farm.

Housing topics

Miriam requested Rs. 15 lakhs loan for Auroville housing (to build new). The loan repayment proposal was for Rs 4000/mo over a period of 35 years. Although the FAMC sympathize with Miriam's situation, it was with regret that the members informed her that the loan request was not approved. The community cannot support this kind of financing at this time. Repayment of a loan over 35 years is not feasible... The members expressed support for Miriam's family to be considered, in an active manner, for pro bono housing. Miriam was informed, with a copy of the communication to the Housing Service.

Costantino and Estee requested a Rs. 15 lakhs loan to complete the construction of a housing asset in Sukhavati. They proposed to repay Rs. 65,000-70,000/month within about 2 years. During the deliberation, the members shared at length that loans are provided to Aurovilians who are involved in, and contributing to, the community. After some fact finding it was reported that Costantino has started an activity and Estee is involved part-time in the children’s' school and at Matrimandir. It was noted that when the Sukhavati house is finished, the family will vacate a much-needed Newcomer house in New Creation. Two proposals were made, which were discussed with them. Thereafter it was reported that they need the total Rs. 15 lakhs to quickly finish. FAMC approved the total request for Rs. 15 lakhs. They and the Financial Service were informed.

The Housing Board (HB) recommended Robert be the third HB member from the HS. FAMC approved this on a three month trial basis, as per the mandate. Both HB and HS were informed.

Other topics

At the beginning of the month the FAMC met with Niva and Elisa again about the proposed Appeal Policy concerning a working group decision, or as the case may be non-decision. There was a healthy and thoughtful sharing. The members stood by their previously submitted feedback. They are not comfortable with three arbiters being given authority to change a working group decision. There is a deep concern this may undermine the working group mandate, and effectiveness, not to mention morale. Individual members' comments were noted by Niva & Elisa who soon followed-up in writing. In response to Niva and Elisa's follow-up, the FAMC re-iterated that for the first one year trial period to implement the earlier FAMC proposal that a working group decision may only be suspended. FAMC would prefer the Appeal Body would make its recommendation(s) to the working group only. Later in the month the FAMC were asked to clarify an amount “[A]bove which amount the appeal arbiters shall get the FAMC approval on financial matters arising in appeal issues before setting their recommendations?” The FAMC responded that they were surprised by the question since the appeal arbiters are meant to analyze the procedure and decision taken by any working group and conclude about its righteousness or not. The FAMC could not see why any financial recommendations would be involved. However, in case the decision of the working group is concerning financial matters and the appeal arbiters recommend to review this decision, any financial related recommendation by the appeal arbiters should be reviewed by the FAMC, in collaboration with the BCC. There should be no lower limit indicated in the policy.

L'avenir d'Auroville requested input from the FAMC concerning a possible tender requirement for the Assisted Living “Mahalakshmi Home” project. The 'raw structure' bill of quantities (BoQ) is estimated at Rs. 73,22, with overall project costs estimated at Rs. 1,22 crores, plus Rs. 20 lakhs for infrastructure. After a long discussion the FAMC members came to the conclusion that in general it agrees with the Rs. 2 crores threshold concerning tender requirement, as defined in the CVC guidelines. This figure should be applied to total project costs. Therefore, in particular, the Assisted Living Home, based on total project costs, does not meet the tender requirement. L'avenir was informed.

L'avenir requested FAMC input on Industrial Zone planning: how much outside retail activity do we want? FAMC made its recommendation to L'avenir as follows: no retail activities, including restaurants, inside the outer ring road; no cash transactions inside the outer ring road; scrutinize to whom is the activity primarily geared: Aurovilians or outsiders. Also, it could be identified and properly planned, a selected area maybe at the external periphery with easy access, where these kinds of activities can take place and be regulated. FAMC invited the ABC to give input to L'avenir on this matter as well.

The FAMC had been discussing the upcoming Governing Board (GB) meeting. After two separate conversations about it, the members decided that the FAMC does not really need to meet with the GB. Other groups, such as the Land Board and Unity Fund, will be presenting information which will concern the GB members at this time. The Government of India (GoI) Plan Grant subgroup and/or the WCom should however bring up the point concerning GoI plan grant structure changes. The WCom were informed.

In late July the members had a spontaneous sharing about Auroville farms. There is some concern about how the Farm group is functioning and it was agreed as a first step to do some information gathering. It was shared that the Farm group had made a presentation to the BCC in 2015 and so the FAMC requested a copy of it from the Farm group. In addition, Foodlink was requested to provide a report on all the farms' productivity over the previous 3 years. At the Farm group suggestion and the FAMC invitation, Vivek and Sumathi, along with Bindu, joined the FAMC meeting and went over some of the details from the 2015 presentation. It was an informative and pleasant exchange. During the sharing the FAMC members requested additional information, by farm: cultivated land compared to overall (ref: intensive & non-intensive agriculture); number of cows; number of chickens; number of workers; loans and overdraft figures; produce list; precise land extent. FAMC followed-up with Vivek, Sumathi, and Bindu in writing.

The Organizational Research Group (ORG) requested FAMC input from the [16 July] meeting: “Each working group decides upon a goal that Auroville can focus itself upon over the next five years, and suggests ways in which their group could contribute to the materialisation of that goal. ORG collects these responses and organizes another meeting of the WGs to see if a common goal emerges.” At the end of the month, a short brainstorm session brought up a few suggestions that were shared with ORG: super units; stewardship allocation and all that entails; reliable asset information including details to support better decision-making; space utilization including addressing the attitude of 'my space; the need to share community assets; how to become self-sufficient; create non-monetary economy.

Lavkamad, Karin, and Michael, Auroville Institute of Applied Technology (AIAT) executives, requested FAMC and WCom permit them to apply for a PAN card in the name of AIAT. The FAMC understanding is that it is not possible for a unit under the Auroville Foundation (AVF) to have a separate PAN. They were advised to seek further guidance from the Office of the Secretary, AVF. They were informed.

Following up from previous reports

In June/July the WCom and 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. The FAMC subgroup requested 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) met once earlier this year. In August, the FAMC received an update which included the conclusion that this service cannot be established at this time due to a lack of qualified human resources. Perhaps the next FAMC team will take it up.

In July the FAMC received a reply from the Sacred Groves project holders on the status of the construction of three prototype houses. In August the FAMC reviewed the latest communication and decided it had nothing further to add or comment on at this time. The FAMC have adopted a 'wait and see' attitude since the project holders are looking for stewards for the prototype houses and fund-raising to complete this phase of the project.

Earlier it was reported that the FAMC made a proposal to the BCC concerning Auroville eateries contribution to the City Services budget. The BCC responded to the FAMC that it agreed with a proposal submitted by Nicole. Upon review the FAMC agreed also with the proposal and followed up with the BCC in writing with a request that their members collaborate with the ABC on details and implementation.