Accounts and accountability

Even if the leakage of development funds is not as high as 85 per cent of the total allocation, as estimated by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, it does exist. Realising that good governance is essential for sustainable and inclusive development, the Central government has adopted "citizen's charter" initiatives to bring greater transparency, accountability and responsiveness to administration. The concept is based on trust and cooperation between the service provider and its users, adapted from the United Kingdom, which introduced it in 1991 and re-launched it in 1998, emphasising "services first" to continuously improve the quality of public services by empowering citizens.

Public money should be spent while ensuring the accountability of individuals and organisations, and in compliance with applicable acts and regulations to enhance service delivery. The nine essential components of service delivery are: settled standards of service; the right to full information, consultation and involvement; encouraging access; the promotion of choice; fair treatment; putting things right when they go wrong; the effective use of resources; innovation; collaboration with other providers.

One of the more rational approaches before the government for the purpose of reducing the common man's alienation from the state, and restoring his faith in the state's capacity to design citizen-centric development programmes, is to ensure effective implementation with timely monitoring and mid-course corrections and, if needed, policy interventions.

The office of the CAG is constitutionally mandated to ensure that the people's representatives oversee public expenditure, promoting accountability and good governance. High-quality auditing can provide valuable quantitative and qualitative inputs for formulating effective policy interventions. Learning from the root cause analytics of an effective audit may help promote accountability.

An outcome-oriented, competent audit appreciates that the commitment of the executive is a prerequisite. Intensified communicdation between the CAG and the government machinery could help the executive find valuable inputs from objective, authenticated audits of the performance of different projects. This could, in turn, enhance the CAG audit and its capability to provide an independent assurance to stakeholders. India's post-liberalisation growth story was relatively unscathed by the global recession because of impressive policy initiatives, the benefits of which must reach all Indians.

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