QUESTION : With the nation spending substantial resources to manage the pandemic. Discuss the role of CAG in India
Topic- KEEPING VIGIL EVEN DURING UNUSUAL TIMES
- Role and Significance of CAG during covid-19
WHY IN NEWS ?
With the nation spending substantial resources to manage the pandemic the role of the supreme audit institution of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has assumed the significance.
KARNATAKA CASE – HOW EMERGENCY SITUATION IS MISUSED FOR CORRUPT PRACTICES ?
- Emergency calls for attention on outcomes rather than rules
- In the expediency of saving lives and alleviating suffering, there can be reasonable exceptions to compliance with established rules and standard operating procedures. As a result, questions of inconsistencies are likely to be overlooked.
- In Karnataka, there was political allegation that funds (to the tune of ₹2,000 crore) were siphoned off to purchase inferior quality of PPEs, sanitisers, ventilators, masks and other equipment at prices higher than those prevailing in the market
- In August 2020, the Karnataka State Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the CAG to conduct a special audit into the purchase of COVID-19 equipment
- The panel also asked the CAG to ‘conduct an audit of expenditure incurred by the State government under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The government had used the SDRF amount for purchase of equipment in various districts’
ROLE OF CAG DURING THESE TIMES :
- Mandate: The statutory responsibility of CAG as an independent, objective, and non-partisan constitutional authority includes appraising disaster preparedness, ensuring that management, mitigation operations, procedures are complied with, and proper internal controls are in place.
- Realigning to COVID-times: The CAG has issued an order creating a new vertical — health, welfare and rural development on June 1 restructuring the office of the Director General of Audit, Central Expenditure
- Need to audit Health related expenditure: It is necessary that the CAG undertakes performance audits of COVID-19 related procurements, the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and Employee State Insurance (ESI) hospitals.
- Audit objectives may include the procurement of equipment and drugs for CGHS wellness centres and polyclinics, laboratories and hospitals.
- Quality of Governance: As the CAG’s performance audits are driven by economy, efficiency and effectiveness, the audit should also focus on expense tracking and achievement of outputs and outcome, in qualitative and quantitative terms.
- Leveraging Technology: The entire process of procurement of COVID-19-related equipment and drugs, proper documentation, and compliance with rules and regulations can be streamlined with data analytics and AI.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CAG DURING COVID-19 TIMES :
- Helps Prevent Spread of Pandemic: Auditing of hospitals, dispensaries and labs is expected to provide the assured health-care services including infection control and hygiene.
- Disaster Management: If all the major purchases by government entities at all levels are audited by the CAG, there can be substantial improvement in disaster management.
- Good Governance: CAG audit will usher in better transparency, integrity, honesty, effective service delivery and compliance with rules and procedures and governance.
- Long term benefits: Audit recommendations can contribute improvements in various aspects of disaster preparedness, management and mitigation
ABOUT CAG :
- CAG is an independent authority under the Constitution of India.
- He is the head of the Indian audit & account department and chief Guardian of Public purse.
- It is the institution through which the accountability of the government and other public authorities (all those who spend public funds) to Parliament and State Legislatures and through them to the people is ensured.
INDEPENDENCE OF CAG :
- There are several provisions in the Constitution for safeguarding the independence of CAG.
- CAG is appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal and provided with tenure of 6 years or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.
- CAG can be removed by the President only in accordance with the procedure mentioned in the Constitution that is the manner same as removal of a Supreme Court Judge.
- He is ineligible to hold any office, either under the Government of India or of any state, once he retires/ resigns as a CAG.
- His salary and other service conditions cannot be varied to his disadvantage after appointment.
- His administrative powers and the conditions of service of persons serving in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department are prescribed by the President only after consulting him.
- The administrative expenses of the office of CAG, including all salaries, allowances and pensions are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India that is not subject to vote.
CAG AS ANTI-CORRUPTION INSTITUTION :
- Article 148 of the Constitution provides for a CAG with the legal status of a Supreme Court judge.
- The CAG is sworn in under Article 148(3) to uphold the integrity of the nation.
- In order to preserve his independence, the CAG’s expenses are charged (without vote) to the Consolidated Fund of India. He can be removed from office only under Article 124(4).
- It is the duty of the CAG to audit all receipts which are payable into the Consolidated Fund of India. The rules and procedures are designed to ensure an effective check on the assessment, collection and proper allocation of revenue.
CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITY :
- 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.
- In this context CAG of India has suddenly landed in the midst of unprecedented opportunity and challenge.
- No criterion or procedure has been prescribed either in the Constitution or in the statute for the appointment of CAG.
- This has given the sole power to the executive to appoint a person of their choice as the 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.
MAJOR CAUSES OF CORRUPTION IN INDIA :
Corruption is a massive problem in India. It is perhaps the single biggest problem of this century. It is a hurdle towards the effective functioning of a healthy democracy such as ours. India ranked 80 in corruption perception index 2019.
- Lack of effective management and organization
Due to lack of proper management and poor organization, respective departments are malfunctioning. This leads to coordination and control failure among the departments and levels of the organization. This uncontrolled and unsupervised administration leads to corruption
- Lack of economic stability:
Economic crisis and hike in price are significant reasons for corruption in India. This leads to unemployment and a change in the lifestyle of people. It further develops a feeling of insecurity in the minds of the people, especially the poor.
- Lack of moral values and ETHICAL CRISIS :
When it comes to values, it has to be the grooming done by the family and the school. Home and educational institutions play a significant role in molding the character of an individual. Lack of moral values taught in the early years of childhood could lead to corrupt children because children imitate their parents. If the parents are corrupt, then it is most likely that the child will also become corrupt
- Lack of good control and vigilance:
In India, some agencies day in and day out to prevent corruption. There are several anti-corruption laws too. Some officials of these agencies get tempted towards illegal commissions and leave corrupt people without a penalty or punishment. Honest officials are required, and more such agencies must be established
- Lack of decent remuneration:
- In the private sector, employees gets the final call on deciding the salary and the benefits of employment. He has complete autonomy and has no pressure from the government.
- With corruption likely in pandemic management, the CAG’s audit can ensure checks and balances in the health sector