The Indian government has launched an investigation into the finances of the multi-billion dollar charity foundation run by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
The Reuters news agency quoted a senior Indian Home Ministry official as saying that the ministry had found some “discrepancies” in financial transactions.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Indian government have not made an official statement.
The Ministry official told Reuters that the discrepancies had been found in transactions between the Foundation and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a well-known policy institute.
“The credit amount did not match the debit amount. At this stage we don’t know who is at fault, whether it’s the people at Gates foundation or at PHFI.
“This aspect is under scrutiny,” Reuters quoted the unnamed official as saying.
In a statement on Wednesday, the foundation said its work and investments in India were guided by the rules and regulations laid out by the government.
“We apply a rigorous approach to funding our partners, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the work on the ground at every step, and modifying the approach if something is not working out,” it said.
The charity funded by the personal wealth of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the world’s richest man with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $79 billion, has enjoyed good relations with the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It has been awarded the Padma Bhushan for social work and Melinda Gates visited India last month and met Mr Modi.
However, there has been a major crackdown on Non-Governmental Organizations and charities operating in India in recent months.
In April, the government cancelled nearly 9,000 licences of charities accused of not declaring donations from abroad, and it has launched actions against Greenpeace and the Ford Foundation.
Mr Modi wants to increase investment in infrastructure and make it easier for businesses to buy land to boost Asia’s third-largest economy.
That has set his government at odds with non-governmental organisations that oppose untrammelled economic development such as Greenpeace, an international environmentalist campaign group.
Greenpeace India faces closure after authorities froze its bank accounts, the group’s head said late on Tuesday, accusing Modi’s government of “strangulation by stealth”.
The Ford Foundation, another of the world’s largest charitable funds, was put on a watch list after the Home Ministry said it was investigating funding to a group run by a prominent activist and critic of Modi.
The U.S. ambassador criticised the moves against foreign-funded charities and activists in the world’s largest democracy.
“Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs,” Ambassador Richard Verma said in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The U.S. State Department has sought a clarification over the restrictions on non-governmental organisations.
The world’s wealthiest foundation, Gates spends millions of dollars supporting India’s fragile health sector and has backed efforts to increase access for the poor to financial services.