Govt, auditor caught in a CAG fight

The row over the 2G report was yet to die down when CAG took govt head on with damning reports on coal block allocation & UMPPs. Now, a turf war rages on

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has been an old edifice of the Indian governance system ó it performs the crucial task of auditing the money spent by the government on various projects and schemes. However, never before in its history has its reports created so much furore as in the last two years, almost creating a schism between the national auditor and the government.

While the auditor maintained that it was merely doing its duty, the government alleged that the constitutional body was getting into the policy-making area, which was not its domain, and sensationalising figures of presumptive losses. In the exchange between the two sides, there was a political angle as well because the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, which vets all CAG reports, was headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. A senior Congress leader even went as far as alleging that CAG Vinod Rai harbours political ambitions.

The whole debate around CAG and its methods acquired a different dimension when the minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, V Narayanswamy, told a news agency that the government was planning to make the office a three-member body, on the lines of the Central Election Commission. The surmise was based on recommendations of a committee headed by former CAG VK Shunglu.

Opposition parties and members of civil society saw the move as an effort to tame the organisation because it had embarrassed the government. In the end, the minister bit the bullet, clarifying that he only meant to say that a committee had recommended such a move and it would be examined.

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