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Number of CAG audits on Union govt. tabled in Parliament hits a low in 2023 | Data

On average, 22 reports were tabled each year in the 2019-2023 period compared to 40 in the 2014-2018 period

December 20, 2023 01:05 pm | Updated 01:30 pm IST

In the calendar year 2023, only 18 audit reports on the Union government’s accounts, prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), were tabled in Parliament (Chart 1). A year-wise analysis shows that the number of audits on the Union Government tabled in Parliament has been decreasing for some years now. On average, 22 reports were tabled each year between 2019 and 2023, compared to the 40 reports tabled between 2014 and 2018. The number of reports tabled peaked in 2015 at 53, but in four of the past six years, 20 or fewer reports were tabled. 

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The figures were arrived at by scraping over 400 audit reports on the Union government, published on the CAG website, between 2010 and 2023. These are reports that have been tabled in Parliament and are available in the public domain as of December 10. Three more reports submitted to the government in April, July, and August 2023 were yet to be tabled in Parliament.

A similar trend was observed across departments. For instance, 14 audit reports of the Railways Department were tabled in the last five years, down from 27 in the previous five-year period (Chart 2). For the Civil Department, 34 audit reports were published in the last five years compared to 42 in the previous five-year period. The latest report of the Defence Department available in the public domain dates back to 2017. According to a 2020 report in The Indian Express, former CAG Rajiv Mehrishi said, “The idea is to make (Defence reports) not too easily accessible… because someone in Washington, Beijing or Islamabad may also be watching.”

The CAG is a constitutional authority which heads the Indian Audit and Accounts Department (IA&AD). The two entities are known as the Supreme Audit Institution of India (SAI).

As of 2021-22, the IA&AD had a staff strength of 41,675, a steady decline from the peak of 48,253 in 2013-14 (Chart 3). The number of IA&AS officers employed came down to 553 in 2021-22 from 789 in 2014-15. The strength of the audit and accounting staff reduced from over 26,000 in 2013-14 to 20,320 in 2021-22. The total employees as a share of sanctioned posts have remained mostly stagnant in the years, oscillating slightly between 66% and 75%.

“Due to persistent efforts, the vacancy position has significantly decreased; and despite attrition and retirements is expected to sharply decrease in the ensuing months, due to the major recruitment drive undertaken in recent years,” said a CAG official.

The budget allocated to the IA&AD has also declined when considered as a share of the Union Budget’s total expenditure. In FY24, allocation to the IA&AD formed 0.13% of the Union Budget, down from 0.19% in FY17 (Chart 4). FY24 is the Budget estimate and FY23 is the revised one.

Even in absolute terms, the budget allocated to the IA&AD increased from ₹3,780 crore in FY17 to ₹5,806 crore FY24 — a 53% increase, much lower than the 128% increase in the Union Budget’s total expenditure in the same period.

With inputs from Devesh Kumar Pandey

Source: Comptroller and Auditor General website and performance activity reports

Also read: Getting to know the abc of CAG

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