President lauds CAG amid debate over its role

New Delhi – Amid an increasing awareness and demand for transparency and accountability in delivery of public services, President Pranab Mukherjee Monday lauded the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in keeping a watch on governance but cautioned against an overreach that could lead to “dissonance” in the system.

“I am glad that during the past years, CAGs audit has shifted from routine compliance audit to a more macro-perspective,” the president said, inaugurating a conference of Accountants Generals that will deliberate on audit practices and strengthening public financial reporting.

He, however, said that while redefining organisational roles and boundaries, “all constitutional authorities need to adhere to the fine and calibrated system of checks and balances which forms the bedrock of our governance structures”.

“Any attempt by any organ of the state to overreach will unnecessarily lead to dissonance within the system. It is, therefore, necessary that all constitutional authorities introspect on their respective roles.”

The CAG has been dragged into political controversy over its reports on awarding of telecom spectrum and coal blocks, power and airport privatization with some in the government saying that the auditor had acted beyond its constitutional mandate.

The president said since the opening up of the Indian economy in 1990s, the government had taken decisions of far-reaching import, the results of which were “becoming visible only now”. And most such reforms involved use of public money and public resources.

“As I stated at the time of assuming the office of the First Citizen of our country, trickle down theories of growth will no longer work in the Indian context. When we talk about optimal decision-making, we will do well to keep in mind that, in the long run, use of public money must improve the living conditions of the people.”

Mukherjee also stressed the need for introducing effective internal control systems in ministries and departments.

“The ministry of finance is currently examining the report to strengthen internal audit mechanism. I am sure that the recommendations, once accepted, will go a long way in making internal audit an effective tool of governance,” Mukherjee, a former finance minister, said.

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