Audits more focused now: Outgoing CAG Rajiv Mehrishi
Retired IAS officer Rajiv Mehrishi, who demitted the office of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on Friday, said that there has been a radical shift in the way the government’s auditor now works with its reports being more substantive and focused, and there being no “roving or fishing enquiries”.
“We are a large ship and it takes time to turn. But some steps have been taken. If you look at CAG reports now, they are extremely meaningful,” Mehrishi, who headed the constitutional body for almost three years (from September 2017 till Friday), said.
G C Murmu, who was Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, will take over as the new CAG on Saturday.
Detailing how CAG now focuses on specific audits rather than going into policy issues or coming up with headline-making figures, Mehrishi said : “Take the example of performance audits (examining performance of government departments in accordance with principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness), which makes for the most interesting reading. What we were doing was in a dissipated and non-focused manner. The idea (now) is to get them to focus on issues and try to answer those issues”. His reference is to outcome-based audits .
Mehrishi cited the example of CAG’s audit of Uttar Pradesh’s hospitals in December, in which it focused on specific issues such as the infant mortality data and the nurse to bed ratio.
The audit body has also initiated the practice of engaging domain experts from various institutions,such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management, so that there is “quality control” in writing the reports. Mehrishi said that CAG took help of a doctor while finalizing the audit report on UP hospitals. Similarly, IIT Delhi’s help was taken by CAG for a report on Delhi Metro.
CAG is also working on making its audit reports “shorter” and more accessible so that the general public can read and understand them. “The long reports are difficult to read.”
Mehrishi also confirmed that CAG plans to conduct an audit of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme of the government with a focus on coverage (establishing correspondence between beneficiaries and benefits), efficiency, and design of payment process. The audit will also look at the outcomes. DBT is a scheme of government to transfer the benefits and subsidies of various social welfare schemes directly to the bank account of the beneficiary.
Other officials in CAG, who didn’t wish to be named, said that a team of CAG visited Geneva last month to audit the World Health Organization (WHO). Mehrishi was elected as the external auditor of WHO in June 2019 for four years. Murmu will now take over the proceedings.
CAG also plans to conduct an audit on the availability of drugs, medicines and equipment in all government medical institutions throughout the country, in which it will include procurement of Covid-19 equipments/medicines as well.