Agencies, New Delhi A cross section of political leaders and a former CAG official on Friday gave a mixed reaction to Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai’s demanding comment that the role of the CAG cannot be confined to just submitting financial propriety reports to Parliament.
Rai, whose reports on losses from 2G spectrum and coal block allocations have in the recent past sparked allegations of massive corruption in the current government, asked: “Should we, as public auditors, limit our role to placing reports in Parliament, or go beyond that and seek to sensitise public opinion on our audit observations, especially in the social sector such as rural health, primary education, water pollution, environment, drinking water etc?” Rai made the statement during his lecture at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts (U.S.) on Thursday.
It maybe recalled that the UPA-II Government has consistently and repeatedly debunked the CAG’s reports and accused it of exceeding its mandate. In the CAG’s defence, Rai said that Indian democracy is maturing and the urban middle class is getting more involved in citizen’s affairs.
“We continue to tread the new path in the belief that the final stakeholder is the public at large,” he said. The CAG’s audits ensure judicious use of public money, Rai said. “We may not be able to wipe out corruption, but our endeavour is to uncover instances of crony capitalism. The government should be seen to support enterprise per se and not particular entrepreneurs,” the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said.
Maintaining that the auditing of government and public entities has a positive impact on trust in society, Rai said: “It focuses the minds of the custodians of the public purse to use resources effectively, as they know that after an audit scrutiny, the public will be aware of their actions.” The CAG’s role, Rai said, has evolved – as from “being a bunch of fault-finders who are often wiser by hindsight, we now recognise and report good practises that we observe during audit”. The public auditor, he said, was as much engaged in the business of upgrading public governance as any other agency in the administration.
“We do not subscribe to the We-They concept and hold ourselves to be on the same side of the table as the executive. Out audits have undergone a cultural change. We now engage in positive reporting,” Rai said. Observing that it was imperative for the public auditor to appear objective and trustworthy, he said: “We can only deserve trust if we are judged as credible, competent and independent and can be held accountable for our actions,” he said. Agreeing with Rai, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha said in New Delhi: “ I completely agree with what Vinod Rai and the CAG have said. There is no way with which someone can disagree with what he said.”
Sinha further went on to say: “There has been a nexus in between the corporates and bureaucrats.” Reacting to media reports that economic growth would eventually be pegged at five percent for fiscal 2012-13, Sinha said: “ I am shocked at the projection of the GDP growth. It belies the tall claims which were being made by the Finance Minister (P. Chidamabaram) and the Prime Minister (Dr. Manmohan Singh).” “It shows the crises propitiation to which the Indian economy has been reduced,” he added. Communist Party of India leader D. Raja said that he understood the anguish of the CAG, and added that he was of the view that ever since the exposure of the CWG scam,” there is a tendency of the ruling government to undermine the CAG.”
He further described the CAG as the nation’s number one auditing company. “It has a great responsibility and I think one should learn to respect the CAG,” he added. Trinamool Congress lawmaker Sultan Ahmed said: “The public of the nation believes what the CAG says. The Government of India should come forward.” Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi, however, maintained that the CAG had crossed its limits at times, and added that the government would decide on what step to take Former CAG official R.P. Singh, who had a significant role to play in preparing the report on the 2G scam, defended Rai over his statement, describing him as competent.
“Vinod Rai is autonomous is fully independent to audit the policy. He is competent. I don’t think anyone is interfering in his working in the auditing policy,” said Singh “CAG can question definitely if there is an irregularity in policy implementation. The constitution has decided a frame work,” he added. On the issue of whether the CAG had the mandate to question alleged financial improprieties of the government, Singh diplomatically said: “The government gets the people’s mandate every five years. The government only appoints the CAG. If as an auditor, we start interfering in policy implementation, that is not our/my mandate.