Comptroller’s Reputation Restoredby Opinion Express February 15, 2019 0 comments
The CAG’s reputation has been repaired following the auditing body’s seemingly fair report on the Rafale acquisition
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has one of the toughest jobs. It must audit government spending in a country as large as India, which is a challenge that may seem insurmountable. With the government spending hundreds of thousands of crores, as well as earning a similar amount through divestments and assets disposals, the task before these individuals is to be pointedly impartial. And that is not even including all the state-owned companies that the CAG is mandatorily required to audit every year as the head of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA&AS). This would be a hard task even if you had a strength of thousands of trained auditors but the sanctioned strength of the IA&AS is under 700 personnel. In the past, rushed audit reports have led to massive miscalculations based on assumptions that were, at the very least, slightly dubious. Take for example one report that questioned the Delhi Government buying buses with automatic transmissions when manual transmissions were cheaper discounting the fact that automatic transmissions make life easier for the driver and the ride smoother for commuters. And then there was the former CAG, Vinod Rai, whose calculation of a Rs 1.76 lakh crore scam around 2G spectrum was over the top. The Supreme Court might have agreed that a scam took place when it cancelled spectrum allotment but the manner in which the CAG report compared 2G and 3G did a disservice. Of course, technology has moved on now but CAG reports have always been subject to questions by the Opposition and the Government. Besides, the way the CAG is appointed is still surrounded by controversy although the current incumbent, Rajiv Mehrishi, is one of the most competent officers in the service.
And that is evident in the CAG’s report into the Rafale acquisition deal which has been universally praised by all but Rahul Gandhi because it demolishes his flimsy scam allegations. At the same time, the CAG’s report also weakens some of the points that Narendra Modi and his cohorts were raising about their deal versus the one the previous UPA administration was discussing. The CAG points out that the previous administration was also nowhere close to a deal and talks about the Indian enhancements. Unfortunately given that Rahul Gandhi had already doubled down on the Rafale controversy, his new allegations have directly attacked the CAG and that is very unfortunate. The CAG’s office, like that of the President, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should be apolitical and respected. Of course, the selection process for the CAG should become more transparent as some former judges and senior bureaucrats have suggested. Finally, the CAG report into the Rafale acquisition should put this controversy to bed but the combination of an adamant Rahul Gandhi determined to manufacture a scam coupled with an equally incompetent and arrogant Government, unable to answer bizarre allegations because it feels they are ‘beneath’ it, have made what should have been a routine deal to acquire new fighters, that the Indian Air Force desperately needs, into a needless controversy.