CAG looked inwards on debate over powers
The controversy on whether the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General India (C&AG) has exceeded its brief to bring in policy decisions of the government under its audit has taken a fresh turn, with an internal note indicating that the government watchdog had itself been engaged in soul-searching on the issue.delhi Updated: Nov 11, 2011 00:57 IST
The controversy on whether the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General India (C&AG) has exceeded its brief to bring in policy decisions of the government under its audit has taken a fresh turn, with an internal note indicating that the government watchdog had itself been engaged in soul-searching on the issue.
In his letter to PM Manmohan Singh, C&AG Vinod Rai rebutted the latter's assertion that the auditor transgressed its brief by commenting on policy issues and in holding a news conference on audit reports.
"While accepting the prerogative of the government to formulate the policy of the 2G licences, it was felt that an in-depth examination of the implementation of such policy needed to be done. Nowhere does the 2G report of the CAG ever make references or comments on the formulation of policy by the Cabinet," Rai said in his letter sent in July 2011.
HT is in possession of the CAG's internal note of October 22, 2011, which indicates that the CAG's office had itself been engaged in soul-searching on issues relating to its own powers to audit policy decisions of the government.
Scheduled to depose on November 14 before the joint parliamentary committee probing the 2G scam, Rai may have some explaining to do in the matter. The C&AG is expected to give a presentation before the JPC on 2G issues—ncluding the question as to why he overruled his own officials in pointing a figure to the projected loss of over Rs 1.70 lakh crore in the allocation of telecom licences.
Signed by CAG director general RB Sinha and seen by deputy CAG Rekha Gupta, the note discusses various international norms in such matters.
Sinha quotes Sir Osbert Peake (chairman, Westminister public accounts committee) as having said in 1945: "In theory, we are not supposed to concern ourselves with policy, but policy and economy merge into each other with such subtle gradations that it is quite impossible to decide a clear-cut line between what policy is and what is not". Further, the CAG note refers to a World Bank-sponsored study on the subject, concluding that the distinction between 'policy' and 'implementation' is difficult to define.