Accounts and accountability

Synergy between the CAG and government can ensure better delivery

Can the CAG's audits be used to improve governance? Is there a need to facilitate more effective communication between the CAG's office and the executive, to bring in mid-course corrections, improve programme execution and service delivery via the authenticated audit critique?

The Union minister for rural development, Jairam Ramesh, believes so. According to reports, he has said that expenditure on all rural development flagship programmes will be brought under the CAG's office for greater accountability and transparency in implementation, plugging the alleged leakage of funds meant for the NREGA and rural road works. The Centre has earmarked Rs 1 lakh crore for rural development this fiscal under its flagship programmes.

There can be synergy when there is synthesis in the way governance and audit functions are conceptualised. The smooth functioning of any parliamentary democracy depends on balancing the divergent roles and responsibilities of its three pillars, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, along with credible institutions like the office of the CAG.

In the last budget, the total plan expenditure for 10 flagship programmes for 2012-13 was raised to Rs 5,21,025 crore, 18 per cent more than the previous budget estimate. These programmes are intended to make growth inclusive, while showcasing India Inc. The Bharat Nirman initiative has components for rural infrastructure, encompassing electrification, telephony, roads, housing, drinking water and irrigation, while other programmes, like the mid-day meal scheme, the NREGA, Indira Awaas Yojana, the JNNURM and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, are tailored to provide a better quality of life and livelihood security.

Considering the need to measure outcomes in order to assess the impact of such schemes, the focus shifted from outlays to outcome budgeting from 2005-06, with an emphasis on targets, quantifiable deliverables, physical outputs and institutional reforms in the delivery systems of these programmes. A medium-term expenditure framework statement has also been introduced in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003, to facilitate the optimum allocation of resources for prioritised schemes and weed out those that have outlived their utility.

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