Government speak: Vinod Rai
We are empowered by law to audit any wing of the government. We decide who to audit after classifying auditees as high risk, medium risk or low risk — the high risk being attributed to projects where there are big budgets and there is a possibility of misspending.
There is an agreement between the CAG and the government of India that since we make an observation, we must get a response within four months. But in the last 10 years, we have made 9,000 such observations and in 3,000 cases, not even the first response was received. What does the CAG do about this? Nothing… I have to wash my hands of it. To that extent, it’s a toothless organisation.
Then there are the delays. If I am seeking details from the education department and they keep us hanging for weeks, or months, there is a damn we can do about it.
Also, it is the duty of government departments to table our reports before Parliament at the earliest, as the law says. But if there are observations against a department, often there are long delays — so I have asked the Law Ministry to interpret what “at the earliest” means.
As far as the government’s work ethic is concerned, delivery systems are getting more complex in India. But the good thing is that more and more money is being spent through Panchayati Raj institutions.
My wishlist: I would like to have unfettered access to records. That’s it.
Vinod Rai is the Comptroller & Auditor General of India.
The CAG is an old fashioned office and could do with a lot of new talent and young blood. Also, at present the nature of the office of the CAG is at best advisory. Its role is to advise and educate the legislature and parliament on financial aspects relating to governance and delivery of governance. Or the lack of it. Since the CAG has to mingle with politicians, his position gets a bit diluted. Yes, the CAG could do with more powers, in the overall interests of the nation. What it also needs is loads of new talent, IT and young legs to do a lot of running around and doing things swiftly.
JM Lyngdoh is former chief election commissioner.
Admiral (Retired) RH Tahiliani:
Audit is post-event happening. Corruption can only be controlled by keeping systems in place. The CAG is answerable to the President, and its audit reports are to be taken up at the discretion of Parliament. The existing CAG Act of 1971 must be reformed and the CAG given more powers. However, Parliamentarians seem not to be interested in doing
so. Laws against corruption must be changed.
Admiral (Retired) RH Tahiliani is the Chairman of Transparency International India.