Gaps in accountability in flagship schemes a concern: Speaker
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar today said there were "serious gaps" in accountability framework for government's flagship programmes implemented through private agencies, which was a major concern of the new Audit Bill proposed by Comptroller and Auditor General.
Inaugurating a national seminar on 'Legislature-Audit Interface', Kumar said transparency and accountability were the driving forces of good governance.
"There are serious gaps in the accountability framework of these implementing agencies and the CAG's present mandate for audit of these agencies is also limited," she said here.
"One of the major concern of the (Audit) bill is about the instrumentalities through which expenditure is being increasingly channelled by government," she said.
Kumar noted that public spending on flagship programmes for improving health care, universal elementary education, sanitation and employment had increased by leaps and bounds.
"Most of these programmes are being implemented by panchayats and municipal bodies or under the society mode by direct transfer of funds from central ministries to registered government societies at state, district, block and panchayat levels," she said.
Referring to the public-private partnership (PPP) model used more intensively by central and state government to help meet gaps in provision of basic services in infrastructure sector, she said it was essential for the government to ensure that services being delivered through such arrangements to the users met the agreed time, cost and quality standards.
"Apart from ensuring transparency and competitiveness in the process of award of contracts, it is equally important to protect the public exchequer from unintended misuse of claims from concessionaires," she said, recommending that such programmes should receive adequate attention of oversight bodies like CAG, Committee on Public Undertakings (CPU) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
This, she said, would protect the user interest and the need to secure value for public money.
Noting that audit was frequently faced with situations where auditees did not comply with CAG's request for records and information, Kumar said it not only delayed the audit process, but also seriously impacted the quality of audit examination and thwarted possible disclosure of serious irregularities, frauds and embezzlements.
Referring to the functioning of the PAC and CPU, the Speaker said it was not just self-assessment, but also public perceptions about effectiveness that needed to be taken into account by these committees.
"Effective parliamentary oversight is the cornerstone of good governance. Prompt response of the executive in taking corrective measures on the objections raised by CAG in inspection reports...is crucial," she added.