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Day 24 – Q 1. The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is the keystone in the arch of constitutional measures of accountability. Comment. 

  • IASbaba
  • July 7, 2020
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Governance, GS 2, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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1. The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is the keystone in the arch of constitutional measures of accountability. Comment. 

 भारत के नियंत्रक और महालेखा परीक्षक (CAG) का कार्यालय जवाबदेही के संवैधानिक उपायों में कीस्टोन है। टिप्पणी करें।

Demand of the question:

It expects student  to elaborate about the role and function Comptroller and Auditor General plays in Indian Polity to fulfil her/his accountability. It also expects student to write about how the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) represents a Principal figure in the arch of constitutional measure of accountability.

Introduction:

The Constitution of India (Article 148) provides for an independent office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). She/he is the head of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department. CAG is guardian of the public purse and controls the entire financial system of the country at both the levels–the Centre and the state.

Body:

Abound to Her/his duty  to uphold the Constitution of India and laws of Parliament in the field of financial administration CAG plays following roles and performs important functions to fulfil her/his accountability  as mentioned below:

  • CAG audits the accounts related to all expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, Consolidated Fund of each state and UT’s having a legislative assembly.
  • She/he audits all expenditure from the Contingency Fund of India and the Public Account of India as well as the Contingency Fund and Public Account of each state.
  • She/he audits all trading, manufacturing, profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and other subsidiary accounts kept by any department of the Central Government and the state governments.
  • She/he audits the receipts and expenditure of all bodies and authorities substantially financed from the Central or State revenues.
  • She/he audits the accounts of any other authority when requested by the President or Governor e.g. Local bodies.
  • CAG also acts as a guide, friend and philosopher of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament.

Keystone in the arch of Constitutional measures of accountability:

  • CAG audit reports are handed over to the PACs i.e. Public Accounts Committee at the centre and at the state.
  • Three CAG reports i.e. audit report on appropriation accounts, audit report on finance accounts and audit report on public sector undertakings are examined by PAC.
  • At the central/state level, these reports are submitted by CAG to president/governor, who makes them to be laid in parliament/legislature. Here CAG stands different from other measures of accountability as the CAG reports are submitted to the executive. 
  • CAG also assists the committee in its deliberations by preparing a list of the most urgent matters which deserve the attention of the PAC. Here, CAG plays his role by bringing the most important matters to the attention of PAC. 
  • She/he also helps in making the actions of the committee clear to the witnesses and in making the action of the government clear to the committee.
  • CAG position is sometimes one of interpreter and translator, explaining the officials’ views to the politicians and vice-versa which in turn ensure accountability of the government.
  • The responsibility of the CAG does not end here. He has to watch whether the corrective action suggested by her/him has been taken or not. In cases whether it has not been taken, She/he reports the matter to the PAC which will take up the matter. It ensures accountability not just with respect to auditing matters but also with respect to implementation.
  • Hence, CAG stands as a keystone in the arch of constitutional measure of accountability where CAG  not only represents the structure of accountability but  also holds together  the structure of accountability.

Despite playing this most important role CAG has some considerable challenges to address:

  • In present times audits are getting complex because forms of corruption and maladministration extremely difficult to detect.
  • Besides the historic task of keeping a close watch on the Central and State governments, CAG are now auditing several public-private partnerships (PPP) projects.
  • No criterion or procedure has been prescribed either in the Constitution or in the statute for the appointment of CAG.
  • This goes against the international best practices prevalent across the world.
  • The CAG has the authority to inspect any Government office and to call for any accounts. However, in practice, the supply of records is often denied.
  • The work of audit of accounts of the Union and of the States is actually done by the officers and staff of the IA&AD. However, no statutory recognition has been given to the work of IA&AD in India as against National Audit Office of the UK.
  • CAG of India only performed the role of an Auditor General and not of a Comptroller but in Britain it has the power of both Comptroller as well as Auditor General.
  • In India the CAG audits the accounts after the expenditure is committed i.e. ex post facto. In UK no money can be drawn from the public exchequer without the approval of the CAG.
  • In India, CAG is not a member of the parliament while in Britain; CAG is a member of house of the Commons.

To address these kind of challenges some  reforms are suggested by former CAG Vinod Rai :

  • Bring all private-public partnerships (PPPs), Panchayati Raj Institutions and government-funded societies, within the ambit of the CAG.
  • CAG Act of 1971 should be amended to keep pace with the changes in governance.
  • A collegiums type mechanism be set up to choose a new CAG on the lines of selecting a Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC).

Conclusion:

In view of the nature of work of CAG,Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said that the CAG shall be the most important Office under the Constitution of India. Hence, It becomes imperative to maintain the independent nature of office of the CAG which in turn will ensure that CAG will remain as a keystone in the arch of constitutional measure of accountability.

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