CAG wins the debate; it isn’t a mere accounting body

Contrary to what PM and his minister would have liked us to believe


Prasanna Mohanty | February 8, 2013

Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vindo Rai
Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vindo Rai

Having been constantly attacked by the UPA government for exposing massive scams in the past couple of years– 2G, CWG, Devas-Antrix deal and coal block allotment etc – the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Vindo Rai is now hitting back with equal vengeance.

At a lecture at Harvard’s Kennedy School on Thursday Rai lamented that the prime minister was reducing the country’s apex audit body to a mere accountant. “We were advised by the highest in the land not to exceed our mandate, which they believe is to be mere accountants and to conduct mechanical audit of government's expenditure” he said.

This was in reference to the prime minister’s statement that CAG was overstepping its domain by commenting on policy matters and the MoS in PMO V Narayansamy’s comment that “the CAG is not following its constitutional mandate”. Both remarks came after the coal block allotment scam was exposed in the middle of last year.

Also read: CAG’s censure on corruption evokes derision from govt

Both were wrong. CAG had neither overstepped its domain nor commented on policy matters. Rather, it had said and showed how the government had not followed its own policy, which led to the arbitrary and unconstitutional allocation of coal blocks to the private players free of cost. But that is beside the point.

The attack on CAG was aimed at intimidating and demoralizing it. That is why in December last year Narayansamy followed up his earlier comment with an equally cavalier one: The government is actively considering a proposal to make CAG a three-member body (a la the central election commission (CEC). 

That is not all. The prime minister, after having accused CAG’s findings as “flawed” and “misleading”, said, “It is difficult to accept the notion that a decision of the government to seek legislative amendment to implement a change in policy should come for adverse audit scrutiny”.

Rai gave a fitting reply at Harvard. He asked why had the auditors general been given high constitutional posts and independence from the executive if they were expected to be mere accountants? Why indeed?

He then went on to explain the logic of having a constitutional body like CAG and other such checks and balances. He said good governance was possible when authority and institutions were accountable, effective and efficient, transparent, responsive, equitable and inclusive and follow the rule of law. “In the present age, governance has assumed such critical proportions that it appears too important to be left only to the government,” he said. (Read Rai slam the government here)

He went further and reminded the government how in a democracy, it is ultimately answerable to the people and pointed out that the government had forgotten that. “The administration ignored them (the silent majority) as they did not have a history of mobilizing themselves into a potent pressure group. Hence, the spontaneous outpouring of people as witnessed recently has taken the administration and political parties by surprise,” Rai said in an obvious reference to the post-Delhi gang rape protests.

Now, Rai has said it. No democratically elected government can shirk accountability or answerability to either the constitutional instrumentalities meant to protect and safeguard the people from the tyranny of their rulers and, ultimately, we the people, who have chosen to to do our bidding.

Rai clinches the argument. It is time the PM and his accolades to ponder over his wise counsel.



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