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The Ministry of Home Affairs has barred Delhi-based NGO Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) from receiving foreign funds for violating Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world, is reported to be one of the biggest donors to the NGO.

Teesta Setalvad's NGO debarred from receiving foreign funds

PHFI, which is registered under FCRA, aims at strengthening training, research and policy development in public health spheres ranging from HIV prevention, access to drugs, tobacco control and immunization to environmental health, universal health coverage, public health cadre development and capacity building of primary care physicians.

According to reports, MHA took the step after they found that PHFI was allegedly violating provisions of FCRA by "diverting" foreign funds for purposes other than those the money was intended for.

PHFI has also been accused of lobbying with parliamentarians and media for the anti-tobacco lobby. Moreover, it has also been alleged that PHFI had also opened bank accounts which the ministry was not aware of. "Misreported" foreign donations were reportedly deposited in these accounts over the past three years.

Meanwhile, PHFI has said that the issue will be resolved soon. "PHFI has received notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) — FCRA Wing regarding the renewal of its FCRA registration. Certain observations have been made by the Ministry on utilisation of funds related to PHFI's projects on tobacco, HIV/AIDS and its financial reports," a PHFI spokesperson told Indian Express.

The spokesperson also said that PHFI has submitted requisite information and documents to MHA on the observations highlighted in the notification and has already provided the needed clarification. "PHFI is seeking an early resolution of the issue and continuation of the FCRA registration, based on the clarifications provided," said the spokesperson.

"We have submitted all relevant documents and information to the ministry and are now waiting for a response," said K Srinath Reddy, a noted public health expert who heads PHFI.