Take Two

Bag the CAG

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Crores are spent on CAG reports, but offenders are never punished. Why not end this charade?

On 17 April, amid sloganeering, the Maharashtra government tabled the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in the Legislature. Though it is mandatory for a government to put the report in the public domain by tabling it in Parliament or the Assembly, this is done reluctantly. For, no government wants to take the rap for CAG findings.

Some weeks ago, during the Budget session, CAG revelations on corruption in the allotment of coal blocks disrupted Parliament. On 17 April, the Congress-NCP led Maharashtra government was put on the mat over misuse of land that has resulted in a Rs 951 crore loss to the state exchequer. In both cases, governments committed to controlling corruption would have ensured strict action against the guilty. But no such thing happened.

In the coal block allotments issue, the UPA Government got back at the BJP and pointed out that “their people”, too, had benefitted. For days on end, the Government tried to play down the CAG findings. The same is the case in Maharashtra. The tabling of the report in the last week of the Budget session itself indicates that it is not serious about punishing the guilty. This CAG report, indicting 10 ministers, had been leaked three weeks ago. Post the presentation of the report, the state announced a probe into the leak. It did not, however, have a comment on the CAG’s findings. Understandable, since all the ministers indicted are Congress and NCP heavyweights.

Once the Budget session gets over, the CAG report is forgotten. Why must we then invest so much money in the charade? The total workforce of the Audit and Accounts Department, at the apex of which is CAG, stands at 43,700. In 2009-10, the budgetary allocation for the exercise was Rs 2,244.25 crore. Of this, an estimated 86 per cent was spent on salaries. If CAG reports will eventually gather dust, then do away with the department altogether.

The CAG is mandated by the Constitution to ensure that public funds are efficiently used. It was set up to promote accountability, transparency and good governance through high quality accounting and auditing.

Year after year, no action is taken on CAG findings. Either take it seriously, or bag the CAG.