By Reeti Mahobe:
The CAG reports for past years till today seems to be posing as something that has exposed corruption in several sectors that spans lakhs of crores of rupees and thus put a big question mark on the working of government and its authorities. The recent report on coal block allocation, ultra power projects and GMR run Delhi International airport tabled before Rajya Sabha has again shaken the faith of people on how their money which they pay in form of ‘taxes’ is being spent. Here it becomes important for us to know what CAG is, it’s working and limitations.
One must know that the office of Comptroller and Auditor General, better known as CAG, is a constitutional device to ensure parliamentary accountability, federal supervision and expert administrative over expenditure in the financial administration. For this our Constitution has the provision for a Comptroller and General of India appointed by President. It’s an independent authority. The genesis of office of CAG is linked to the formation of presidencies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras wherein the independent accounting offices were formulated and consolidated in the accounting office located at London. Thereafter, it got further importance and recognition in Government of India Act, 1935. This culminated to being drafted in the Constitution as what it exists today. B R Ambedkar described it as “… this dignitary or officer…probably the most important officer in the Constitution of India. He should certainly be as independent as judiciary…” This ‘independence’ of the office is also evident from the fact that CAG is equated with Supreme Court judge. His removal procedure is also similar.
Article 148 of the Constitution contains the provisions regarding appointment and conditions of service of CAG. He is appointed by the President under his warrant for a period of six years or 65 years of age whichever is earlier. He is the head of the Indian Audit and Accounts department. The statutory duties of CAG includes audit of receipts and expenditure of Union and State governments accounted for in their respective consolidated funds, transactions relating to contingency funds, any business taking place in government departments, accounts of stores and stock kept in government organizations, authorities and bodies substantially financed out of consolidated fund, accounts of bodies and authorities receiving loans and grants from government for specific purposes, government companies which has equity participation of 51% or more.
The CAG communicates his major findings and observations everywhere in the audit reports every year. These reports and certified finance and appropriation accounts are submitted to the President or Governors for being laid before Parliament or State legislatures as the case may be. Audit reports on concerned PSUs and autonomous bodies are sent to the concerned ministries or departments for being laid before parliament or state legislature. This report is submitted to the House and then committed to Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which in consultation with CAG examines and scrutinizes the report thus submitted. PAC is guided by CAG to decide upon the following course of action. But it has few limitations such as that it is not yet been extended to commercial and industrial undertakings. Some critics observe that though CAG’s audit of PSUs is an effective instrument of parliamentary control but the form, content and approach has affected the efficiency and profitability of Public sector undertakings.
It may be summed up here that the role played by CAG is of inestimable value as it safeguards the interests of tax payers. It acts as supreme watchdog of the Government’s financial activities on behalf of parliament.