Shashi Kant Sharma will take over as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Thursday, succeeding Vinod Rai who demitted office today after an eventful five-and-a-half years during which the audit body was locked in confrontations with the government.
Mr. Rai, who earlier drew flak from government and ruling parties for holding press conferences and interacting with media, on Wednesday thanked media persons just before demitting office.
“It is because of all of you that this institution has been able to function independently. I hope you continue to extend support to the institution,” he said, but did not take any questions.
The 61-year old Sharma would be administered oath of office and secrecy by President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday.
Mr. Sharma a 1976-batch Bihar cadre IAS officer is currently the Defence Secretary. He holds a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of York.
Like Mr. Rai, Sharma too has served as Secretary in the Department of Financial Services. He has spent over 10 years in the Defence Ministry in various capacities.
The CAG is appointed for a term of six years or till the incumbent attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
Mr. Sharma's appointment comes at a time when the CAG has come under sharp attack from the government for its assessment of Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss in allocation of 2G spectrum.
Under Mr. Rai's tenure, the CAG was accused of going beyond its auditing ambit and indulging in analysing policy decisions.
Mr. Rai, however had hit back saying the government just wanted the CAG to be an accountant.
Just a few days before Mr. Rai's retirement, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the chief auditor had done a "disservice" to India story by bringing out "hugely exaggerated and mythical numbers" in public discourse.
The new CAG, Mr. Sharma, will have to handle the audit report on AgustaWestland chopper deal, among others. He was closely associated with the deal from its early days till its completion in 2010.
CAG reports on 2G spectrum and coal block allocations during Mr. Rai's tenure had triggered a number of controversies and raised the hackles of the government, besides bringing in the concept of presumptive loss in audit.