ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Transparency in Appointing the CAG

The Comptroller and Auditor General is essential in overseeing government finances and ensuring public accountability. Post-independence, public expenditure has increased hundredfold, with no clear accountability structure in place. New regulatory bodies have been created, and a good number of government transactions have been computerised. These developments pose new challenges for public audits, which require the CAG to reinvent itself. This entails more professionalism in its working, wider power delegation, and fundamental reforms in its structural organisation. Our government should not be afraid of such reforms, since conditions have fundamentally changed from when the Constitution came into effect, in 1950.

The Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) is an essential instrument that ensures the accountability of the executive to Parliament. From the time we adopted the Constitution in 1950, the CAG has been a key player in overseeing government finances and ensuring public accountability. The CAG office has revealed many financial misdeeds, ranging from the bungling of the purchase of army jeeps, associated with V K Krishna Menon in the 1950s, and the Bofors gun scandal in the 1980s. In more recent times, it has revealed the financial scams of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA II), such as the 2G telecom spectrum, Coalgate, and the Commonwealth Games scams. In keeping with the government’s increased responsibilities due to the demands of a welfare state, the CAG has diversified its activities and has undertaken the auditing of new areas. It has moved from regular audits to performance audits—to assess how well a public entity’s operations have been managed with regard to economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. The CAG has also entered into the arena of revenue and commercial auditing to ensure that public money is duly collected and utilised in the interest of the larger public. However, it has a long way to go in a rapidly changing world, where developments in the fields of information technology, telecommunication, and avionics have made great strides.

The office of the CAG faces the formidable challenge of instituting an effective mechanism that ensures the accountability of central and state governments in using public money and resources. Post-independence, public expenditure has increased a hundredfold, with a substantial portion of the expenditure going towards autonomous bodies, grant-in-aid institutions, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), with no clear accountability structure in place. The government has also embarked on new activities such as public–private partnerships, which have created loopholes that allow them to evade audit. New regulatory bodies have been created, which encroach on the government’s policy functions. A good number of government transactions have been computerised and are now prone to cyberattacks and computer fraud. These developments pose new challenges for public audits. Are our existing structures and institutions capable of meeting these new demands? In order to meet these challenges, CAG, as an institution, must reinvent itself. This entails more professionalism in its working, wider delegation of powers, and restructuring the organisation and making fundamental reforms.

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