CAG: Six Answers To Clear Doubts & Misperceptions
The relentless campaign to discredit the Comptroller and
Auditor General of India (CAG) and diminish the institution is continuing. One
is not surprised; this has happened before, for instance in the Bofors case.
However, one is dismayed because the campaign, unwittingly aided by some
elements in themedia, seems to be succeeding to some extent. It seems urgently
necessary to dispel certain doubts and misperceptions before they gain ground
and cause more damage.
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Has the CAG been ‘summoned’ and ‘questioned’ as a witness
by parliamentary committees? Summoning and questioning the CAG would be
similar to summoning and questioning the Chief Justice of India or a judge
of the Supreme Court. It cannot happen, and does not seem to have happened.
As far as one knows, the CAG appears to have voluntarily offered to make
power-point presentations to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), and
the presentation seems to have been followed by the usual Q&A session. One
is not privy to what happened at the JPC meeting. If in fact there was any
aggressive or adversarial questioning, one can only deplore that as
unfortunate; but there is no basis for any such supposition. In so far as
the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is concerned, there is no need for it to
“summon” the CAG or even request his presence, because the CAG is dutybound
to assist the PAC and will in any case be present at its meetings, virtually
as a part of the committee.
Can the CAG’s numbers and inferences be questioned? The
CAG, like all human institutions, is fallible; it can commit errors, just as
the Supreme Court’s judgments can sometimes be wrong. The CAG’s reports can
of course be questioned, just as the Supreme Court’s judgments can be
criticised; but with the same care, respect and circumspection.
Was it right on the part of the CAG to calculate a
‘presumptive loss’? If, in a given case, the decisions and/or procedures
seem prima facie open to question, and there is no evidence of the financial
implications having been taken into account, but at the same time it is not
possible to calculate those implications precisely, there are two options.
The first is to make a mere bland statement that the decision taken or the
procedure followed is questionable; the second is to try and make a rough
assessment of the financial implications or ‘presumptive loss’ through an
indirect method. The first option will give Parliament and the general
public no idea of the seriousness of the case; they will not be able to form
a judgment on whether they are looking at a major or minor matter. The
second option will alert them to the seriousness of the case. If ensuring
accountability is the objective, the second seems the right course. It must
of course be accompanied by a suitable caveat. That is what has been done in
the 2G report.
4. Were there internal differences within the CAG’s
organisation? If so, was it right on the CAG’s part to overrule the DG of Audit?
The answer to this has to be threefold:
In any bureaucracy, the superior level approves or
rejects or corrects proposals or drafts emanating from the subordinate
levels; there is nothing unusual in this.
Under the Constitution, there is only one CAG of India;
the constitutional status of the Directors-General, the Accountants-General,
and the entire Audit Department derives from the constitutional status of
the CAG. The CAG is entirely within his rights in overruling the DG (if that
is what has been done), correcting his numbers, and giving him instructions.
There is no sense in asking “who is right, the DG or the CAG?” The DG has no
separate existence apart from being a part of the CAG’s organisation. The
final decision is that of the CAG, and the responsibility for it rests with
In all cases, an audit objection passes through several
stages of examination, checking, review, etc, both internally within the
Audit Department and externally in correspondence with the audited
organisation. Not only does the ministry or department or other organisation
under audit get several opportunities for explanations and corrections, but
the proposed audit comment also travels up and down between the field office
and the CAG’s headquarters several times, undergoing corrections, revisions,
etc. Extraordinary care is taken to ensure the accuracy of facts and the
defensibility of the arguments in an Audit Report. The point of this
explanation is that the formulation and finalisation of the 2G report seems
to have followed exactly the same course as is followed in all other cases.
Question : Did the Chairman of the PAC telephone or write to
the CAG’s office inquiring about the 2G report?
If so, was this not a case of pressure on his part? This is
an extraordinary charge. Considering the close working relationship between the
CAG and the PAC, there is hardly anything strange about telephonic or other
communication between the two. If the Chairman of the PAC inquires as to when
the audit report on a certain subject is likely to become available, can that be
considered an improper inquiry? As for “pressure,” it is grossly improper to
make any such allegation, but apart from that, what pressure can the Chairman of
the PAC in fact exert on the CAG? Is it being seriously suggested that the
Chairman of the PAC wanted a certain kind of report to be written, and that the
CAG, an independent constitutional functionary, was ready to produce a report as