[Answered] Discuss the role of CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) as an anti-corruption body.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Role of CAG as anti corruption institution. Some issues faced by CAG. Conclusion. Way forward.

Constitutionally, Comptroller and Auditor General’s Office has been mandated to enhance accountability of the Executive to the Parliament and State legislatures by carrying out audits in the public sector and  providing out accounting services in the States in accordance with the Constitution of India and laws as well as best international  practices. Today, the CAG has been undertaking more performance audits than before and stress is not only just on how much money flows out of the exchequer to make a purchase, but towards  the economy and effectiveness of that purchase.

CAG as anti-corruption institution:

  1. Article 148 of the Constitution provides for a CAG with the legal status of a Supreme Court judge.
  2. The CAG is sworn in under Article 148(3) to uphold the integrity of the nation.
  3. 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).
  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.
  5. His duty is to uphold the Constitution of India and laws of Parliament in the field of financial administration.
  6. The accountability of the executive (i.e., the council of ministers) to the Parliament in the sphere of financial administration is secured through audit reports of the CAG.
  7. The CAG is an agent of the Parliament and conducts an audit of expenditure on behalf of the Parliament. Therefore, he is responsible only to the Parliament.
  8. The CAG has more freedom with regard to the audit of expenditure than with regard to the audit of receipts, stores, and stock. ―Whereas in relation to expenditure he decides the scope of the audit and frames his own audit codes and manuals, he has to proceed with the approval of the executive government in relation to rules for the conduct of the other audits.
  9. The CAG has to ascertain whether money shown in the accounts as having been disbursed was legally available for and applicable to the service or the purpose to which they have been applied or charged and whether the expenditure conforms to the authority that governs it.
  10. In addition to this legal and regulatory audit, the CAG can also conduct the propriety audit, that is, he can look into the wisdom, faithfulness and economy ‘of government expenditure and comment on the wastefulness and extravagance of such expenditure.
  11. However, unlike the legal and regulatory audit, which is obligatory on the part of the CAG, the propriety audit is discretionary.

Some issues faced by CAG:

  1. The CAG mostly find his reports hitting the junk pile of government records in the absence of any provision such as Article 141 that confers power to pass any decree and make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself on the Supreme Court.
  2. There is no deadline for the production of documents and replies nor any contempt proceedings for their denial.
  3. The CAG doesn’t  have the right to release these reports in the public domain if they are not presented in the legislature within a month of their submission.
  4. Nor can CAG enforce any of  its findings by decree, akin to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
  5. Criticism of the CAG is rooted in uneducated opinion and deliberate suppression and/or  obfuscation of facts. To that can be added the deep-rooted bureaucratic and political antipathy to accountability.

The CAG has already to some extent achieved what he set out to do, especially when it comes to redefining the role of the office and the public perception of auditors. Despite the severest limitations, the CAG still creditably survives in the defence of accountability, a knight in shining armour amidst the overwhelming rot. The office is a unique combination of knowledge, integrity, commitment and fearlessness. Indeed, the Comptroller and Auditor-General is India’s second remaining pillar of democracy.

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