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Auditor who counts

india Updated: Sep 24, 2011 22:51 IST
Manas Chakravarty

The government may have the CGA... audit the accounts of the CAG
Mint, September 19

Relax. This is not as confusing as it looks. The first thing to remember is that neither the CGA nor the CAG are the CWG. The CGA and the CAG have nothing to do with the Commonwealth Games and they are not, as some think, the Commonwealth Games Agency and the Common-wealth Agency for Games respectively. That would mean the Common-wealth Games Agency would audit the Commonwealth Agency for Games, which is absurd, although stranger things have happened during the Games.

Also, it’s only the CGA that wants to audit the CAG. The other permutations of CAG, such as the AGC, the GCA or the GAC have said absolutely nothing. Although I realise there could be some bad blood about CGA rushing in where other, soberer acronyms fear to audit.

As Mint explains, CGA stands for Controller General of Accounts, while CAG is short for Comptroller and Auditor General. Both are generals, but while one comptrolls, the other merely controls. To find out more, I interviewed a top honcho at the CAG:

Me: What exactly is a comptroller?

CAG: It should be bleeding obvious.

Me: Ah, you roll compts?

CAG: Naturally.

Me: Do you roll over the compts, like a road-roller? Or do you roll them like barrels? And what are compts?

CAG: That’s what the audit is trying to find out.

After that conversation, I turned to Wikipedia, which says comptroller is pronounced identically to controller, which adds to the confusion. And the thesaurus says a comptroller is nothing but an accountant. Which means the CAG is actually an accountant and auditor general while the CGA is a general of accounts. Hmmm.

The truth is that, after the CAG’s star billing, everybody wants to audit these days, not least other generals. The director general of civil aviation, the postmaster general and the generalissimo for newspaper scribblers all want a slice of the action. Even little Pinky, aged 9, says she doesn’t want to be a film star any more. “I want to be a celebrity auditor,” she said, “like the CAG”, adding she would like to pose for the Auditors’ Swimsuit calendar.

But I digress. The fact remains that someone must be found to audit the auditors. As the CGA, who speaks Latin, told me, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” That is why the CGA must audit the CAG. But who will audit the CGA?

Perhaps the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), who could be audited by the ICWAI (The Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India), in turn audited by certified pubic accountants (CPAs) and we could all merrily audit each other with 20-20 hindsight and have a torrid time.

But who will be top auditor? Some say God. Others want Batman. The Director General of Hydrocarbons, however, thinks it should be him. Here’s why:

Me: Why should you be the boss auditor?

DGH: Because I direct everybody.

Me: Oh really?

DGH: We’re made of carbon, right?

Me: Yup, although some of us have a lot of silicone.

DGH: And does your body have water?

Me: I suppose so.

DGH: Then you are made up of both hydrogen and carbon and I’m the director general of Hydrocarbons. Quod erat demostrandum.

I could not respond, as I know no Latin.

( Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint )

The views expressed by the author are personal