Not only has the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) defended its position vis-à-vis allegations that it is exceeding its constitutional mandate, it has also been vindicated by the then former Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee. At an Economic Editor’s Conference in 2011, he said, “I am making it clear that I do not think the CAG is exceeding its jurisdiction, because the basic responsibility of the CAG is to identify if there is any lapse.”

Earlier, on June 13, 2006, the Ministry of Finance issued a general clarificatory order establishing the CAG’s unfettered mandate to determine the scope and extent of his audit. “It is therefore clarified, that Performance Audit, which is concerned with economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the receipt and application of public funds, is deemed to be within the scope of audit by CAG for which Performance Auditing Guidelines drawn up by the CAG already exist. All ministries/Departments are accordingly expected to facilitate the conduct of audits, including performance audits, by providing access to all documents required by the CAG in connection with such audits,” the Office Memorandum reads.

“No Central or State government department has as yet, officially pointed out to the CAG specific instances where the reports of the CAG have commented on policy formulation. It is time the government specifically pointed out how the CAG mandate has been breached,” challenged a CAG official.

“Unexplained exception”

The official pointed out that even in the case of spectrum, the government itself held auctions in 1995, 2001, 2010, with auctions for 2G spectrum scheduled this year as well. The January 2008 allocation by Mr. Raja, when demand far exceeded supply, was an unexplained exception and against advice from senior government functionaries. “When a policy is sub-optimal or less efficient than the alternative — as in the case of 2G spectrum allocation in 2008 — it does get pointed out,” he said.

Though the CAG strongly denies having interfered in policy, global precedence demonstrates that the examination of policies with varying degree of reach and scope has been very much a part of performance audits conducted by many supreme audit institutions, including the Government Accountability Office of the U.S., which supports Congressional oversight by reporting policy and outlining options.

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