It will play a leading role in ensuring that these new initiatives deliver as intended

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday stressed the need for ensuring transparency in public-private partnership (PPP) projects in infrastructure and hinted that the Comptroller and Auditor-General would soon be permitted to look into the books of such schemes.

In his address at a function to mark the 150 years of the CAG here, Dr. Singh said the official auditor “will play a leading role in ensuring that these new initiatives [PPP] deliver as intended…There is need to improve the structure of private-public partnership arrangements to ensure that they are transparent, ensure competitiveness, and adequately safeguard the public interest”.

The indication from the Prime Minister came in response to CAG Vinod Rai seeking permission to audit the books of PPP as, unlike earlier, huge amounts of public money were being spent on these projects. As of now, the CAG's role remains confined to auditing government institutions both at the Centre and in States and public sector enterprises

In her inaugural address, President Pratibha Patil asked the audit watchdog to gain expertise in reviewing infrastructure projects being executed in PPP mode, especially as public financial accountability and probity were essential for rooting out corruption.

The delay in implementation of infrastructure projects was a matter of concern, Ms. Patil said. “There are projects that have time overruns or remain incomplete or are abandoned halfway, which deprive the nation of the full benefits of investment. It is necessary to assess whether such projects are, indeed, in the public interest.”

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “...I would like the CAG to analyse the areas where there are leakages in government revenue and recommend corrective measures to increase not only tax but also non-tax receipts.”

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