Tourism Minister to seek report on charges against Kochi Biennale Foundation

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Riyas Komu can resume his role at biennale, says Kochi Biennale Foundation

A preliminary report on the financial allegations levelled against the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), which organises the Kochi Muziris Biennale, will be sought from Tourism Director P. Balakiran, Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran told The Hindu on Thursday.

Incidentally, Mr. Balakiran is on the board of the KBF as one of the three government nominees. A report on March 21 on award of civil work without proper documentation by the biennale and its resultant run-in with a contractor.

Mr. Surendran, who toured the biennale at Fort Kochi on Thursday morning, said: “I have listened to both sides this morning. While the biennale as an art event has been a stupendous success and was better organised this time around, the organisation is doubtless accountable to the public since it uses public funds [The government had pledged ₹7 crore for this edition of the biennale and ₹5.6 crore had been released by mid-March]. From what I understand, there appears to have been a slip-up in following laid down procedures while awarding work. This will be looked into. That’s why I am going to ask the director to give a preliminary inquiry report,” he said.

Mr. Surendran also said the government was hopeful of acquiring Aspinwall House for cultural activities, including the biennale, this year itself.

“We are taking steps in that direction. Hopefully, it will be done this year itself,” he said.

Riyas Komu’s roles

Meanwhile, the KBF issued a statement on Thursday allowing Kochi biennale founder Riyas Komu to resume his roles at the biennale.

Mr. Komu had stepped down from management positions on October 19 last year following “anonymous allegations” in the media.

An internal complaints committee (ICC) headed by former Chief Secretary Lizzie Jacob, also a trustee, was constituted to hold an inquiry into the #MeToo allegation.

“Since no complaint was forthcoming after pursuing the matter for several weeks, the ICC recommended dropping of the inquiry suggested by the foundation. This recommendation has been examined and accepted by the board of trustees at its meeting today,” the statement said.

It did not, however, clarify whether the resignation tendered by Mr. Komu from the trust early this month had been rejected. Mr. Komu was unavailable for comment.

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