N.J. Nair

State bid to instil financial discipline fails

Independent internal audit wing mooted

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government’s attempts to instil financial discipline in the Public Works Department (PWD) have failed to yield the desired result for want of a professional and scientific auditing system.

The department which executes Plan and non-Plan works for crores of rupees annually does not have a proper mechanism for monitoring the compliance of government orders and instructions to ensure financial discipline. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report for 2007 has pointed out that files relating to financial matters are not routed through the finance officer in the department.

Official sources told The Hindu on Tuesday that the practice of violating the department code and manual and arranging civil works waiving tender calls still prevails in the department. This is in spite of the claims of the government of streamlining the functioning of the department and putting an end to departmental execution of works. There are complaints that department inspections have turned out to be ritualistic and failed to point out lapses in the execution of works. The CAG has pointed out that there is no independent internal audit wing in the department to check irregularities in awarding and executing works. It has recommended the formation of such a wing to conduct periodical inspection of divisions and circles under the department. The wing should be monitored by the Finance Department.

Department sources said the recommendation to form an internal audit system could not be construed as a panacea to these problems. An audit team comprising department personnel may not be willing to recommend disciplinary action against their colleagues who commit even serious lapses. They may be non-committal and will only try to evade the responsibility of recommending stringent action for grave irregularities. Chances of misusing the system also could not be ruled out.