Facing allegations of policy paralysis, the government has often said bureaucrats are afraid to take decisions in the face of increased scrutiny by the national auditor, but HT has found that CAG doesn’t have the authority to monitor more than half of the Centre’s schemes and programmes.
In fact, a draft bill to broaden and clarify the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General, which has had several run-ins with the UPA government, has been stuck in the finance ministry for more than four years.
CAG has been calling for changes in the audit act of 1971 that does not allow it to go through the books of either the local bodies, societies or various government schemes.
Documents accessed by HT reveal that 60% of the government welfare programmes such as the big-budget Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act — a sum of Rs 33,000 crore was set aside for it in 2012-13 — and National Rural Health Mission can’t be audited by CAG.
“Most of the major government programmes are being implemented through local bodies which are out of CAG’s audit purview. As a result, Parliament is not getting any assurance on their utilisation through CAG,” say the minutes of CAG audit advisory board held on November 9, 2012.
This is in complete contrast to the picture painted by the UPA government. Addressing a Congress session on January 17, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while seeking to address charges of policy paralysis, said, “Bureaucrats are hesitant to take decisions fearing that CVC (central vigilance commission) and CAG will raise questions over their decisions.”
Many of Singh’s ministers have accused CAG of interfering with executive decisions. It was the auditor that brought to light the alleged mishandling of 2G spectrum and coal allocations, both the scandals that have caused a great deal of embarrassment to the government.
Former CAG Vinod Rai confirmed to HT that the UPA government had been sitting on the proposal to amend the audit act of 1971. They had made a detailed presentation to Pranab Mukherjee, who was the then finance minister, in September 2009, and handed over the draft audit act to the finance ministry in November 2009, Rai said. “After that, I wrote to Prime Minister, Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram and sent reminders too, but till now nothing has happened,” he said.
“The last reminder was sent to the government five months back,” said a source in the CAG office. The finance ministry didn’t respond to a detailed questionnaire sent by HT.