Saturday, September 12, 2015

Of PAC powers over CAG - Answer lies in the womb of time

The government's policies are often tailored for the greedy, paid for by the needy!!

This blog is in continuation of the last piece ‘Who will control CAG of India? What's the game all about?'
The provocation is surprisingly from the patrons of the blog who have read and reacted overwhelmingly – with most comments figuring on the Facebook pages.
Among them two - very good friends and sincere and objective critics – Varadarajan Krishnamurthy, a senior colleague in the fraternity and the other Prashant Pandey, a young friend – now operating from the holy city Allahabad, raised some obvious questions and also given an impression that the present Modi regime wants to ensure that there are not much adverse reports when it is a few years old. 
After all, the previous government did try to reject the CAG's figures by going for the "zero loss" theory. 

One Varadarajan Krishnamurthy,  a former journalist with The Hindu Businessline, wrote on Facebook, “the entire thing is little confusing. How is the new demand different from the prevalent status of CAG.  It's reports are submitted to the Parliament as well …Would like to be enlightened”.
Prashant took the trouble of sharing his comments on the blog page itself saying,
“to say that CAG is not accountable to Parliament misses me (read Prashant)....Is it the case that they want CAG to report to Parliament, which would then dilute its autonomous status?
I am no expert on constitutional mechanism like Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) or the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and the state legislatures.

But at the same time, I thought, it would not be prudent to ignore their comments completely as they as sincere readers of my blogs – expected me to answer few questions. Hence this humble attempt!
Are we in a situation of a conflict between constitutional authorities like the CAG and the government or Parliament?
I have no snake oil which can be used as having a magical healing power in settling the matters.

Almost echoing similar sentiments, others have asked, “is there an attempt to make the CAG "go soft" on the present government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi?”
These questions are valid, I presume.
The reference about CAG-PAC equations did not come out of the blue.

In fact on the inaugural address, none other than the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had laid down a certain road map.

Dwelling on the important role of the CAG and the PAC, she said “CAG and PAC together deal with the three ‘A’s- Accounts, Audit and Accountability.  They audit the Accounts of Government Departments to fix accountability. I would expect, if possible, another ‘A’ will be added to this in the form of ‘Appreciation’ wherever  due, so that innovative good practices and projects can be replicated elsewhere”.

In fact, among prominent issues those figured in the agenda list to be discussed included, “PAC-C&AG equation, where discussions will be held on the complimentary and supplementary role the two institutions have in ensuring and enhancing public financial accountability in the country”.

But the real debate is on the appointment of CAG. Today it is absolute discretion of the government of the day and thus when UPA regime appointed a former Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, then opposition BJP raised hue and cry.

CAG dispute: UPA Vs Modi regime

The present Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, then LoP Rajya Sabha, had said he was not making remark about the individual but it was an "institutional conflict of interest".
"He will audit it himself. Is it appropriate?" Jaitley had asked.
"The policy of the UPA has been callous disregard of all democratic institutions. The quality of appointments made to constitutional and statutory offices establishes that the policy of the government is to subvert these institutions," Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj had said in a joint statement.

However, the debate is not new. In June 2012, one year before Shashi Kant Sharma was appointed CAG, the BJP patriarch L K Advani had suggested that CAG's appointment should be made by a bipartisan collegium consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, the Law Minister and the Leaders of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Interestingly, DMK chief then an ally of Congress, M Karunanidhi had supported Advani’s demand.

CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta wrote a letter to the PM Dr Manmohan Singh in June 2012 suggesting that the CAG be appointed by the collegium consisting the PM,the CJI and the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha. But Dr Manmohan Singh had turned down the demand saying there was no urgent need for any such change.
Dr MMS with Madam's approval said 'No Change'
Now what’s the PAC chairpersons’ conclave has tried to achieve. Essentially they want the PAC chairmen are consulted for the appointments. And this is nothing unusual in terms of happening in other countries practicing parliamentary democracies.

In United Kingdom, the Comptroller and Auditor General appointment is made by the Prime Minister “acting with the agreement” of the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. In Australia, the Governor General appoints the Auditor General on the recommendation of the Minister concerned after the Minister has referred his recommendation for approval of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit. Similar practice is pursued in Germany also. 
"The CAG of India is not accountable today even for lapses and certain irregularities it commits in its audit report itself," says BJP MP Nishikant Dubey. Did u all notice, for a change a BJP lawmaker is talking like Digvijaya Singh !

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