Rich Heritage of C&AG of India - Celebrating 150 Years

by B.S. Chauhan, Media Advisor to Comptroller & Auditor General

One of the most important day in the history of India was when 150 years ago, the first Accountant General was appointed on 16th November, 1860. He was Sir Edmund Drummond. Releasing a commemorative postage stamp at the beginning of the year long celebrations the President of India, Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil said, “in a democratic set up, auditing of public accounts was viewed with such great significance that the makers of our Constitution, notably Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, created an Independent constitutional authority for this purpose. The institution of the C&AG had not only a distinguished history in India, but it was also matched with distinguished performance. The Indian Audit and Accounts Department and the Auditors General heading it successively, have sought to build an institution on the foundations of an accountability-centric philosophy. However, in a fast changing socio-economic scenario, it would be useful, from time to time, to revisit the practices, and procedures being followed. With growing awareness of citizens, their interest in how efficiently and effectively public money is spent, has been increasing. Public auditors have a major challenge to respond competently to this growing expectation of the stakeholders”. She also emphasized that public financial accountability and probity are essential for rooting out corruption.

Over the ensuing years, the responsibilities, status and Independence of the Auditor General evolved and were enhanced. Shri V Narahari Rao took over as the first Comptroller & Auditor General of Independent India in August 1948. The Constitution of India in 1950 underlying the hopes and aspirations of our Founding Fathers accorded a position of utmost eminence to the C&AG. The late Dr B R Ambedkar called the C&AG “as the most important officer in the Constitution of India. He is the One man who is going to see that the expenses voted by the Parliament are not exceeded or varies from what has been laid down by the Parliament.” And this duty entrusted to the C&AG by the Constitution is still being carried out with the same dedication and sincerity, if not more, since the last 150 years.

The Indian Audit & Accounts Department is known for its high standard of professionalism and core competence of its people. Audit by the C&AG has traditionally been dealing with probity and compliance. This audit involves verification of compliance by the government departments and agencies with the applicable laws, rules and regulations. Instances of non-compliance, fraud, wastefulness are highlighted for the attention of the legislatures and policy makers. While the audit mandate of the C&AG extends across all the civil, revenue, defence, railway, P&T, commercial departments of the Government, over the last century, this organization has been adapting itself to the rapidly changing work environment. In recent decades, with increasing demands from stakeholders to know more about performance and results, highest priority has been accorded to Performance Audits of people centric programmes in the social and infrastructure sectors, focusing on evaluation of flagship programmes. C&AG’s reports afford an opportunity to the Government to make midcourse corrections and improve service delivery.

With the local self governments evolving as the bedrock of India’s democratic system, the C&AG’s organization has been providing technical support and guidance to local bodies in the areas of accounts and audit. The Department has also successfully adapted to changes brought about by automation. The use of information technology was formally initiated in the early 1990s. With e-governance finding its space in the public sphere, information technology audit has become a key resource with the C&AG, with over 350 IT audits of diverse platforms and databases conducted so far. The practices of IT audit won the Prime Minister’s award for excellence in 2008, an evidence of the continuously evolving skill set of the personnel of the Department. In addition, public private partnership and emergence of regulators in the economic sphere and focus on sustainable development & environmental conservation has introduced new audit concerns. The “governance landscape” is changing and keeping pace with these changes, our Department is also proactively re-orienting our approaches to our work.

In course of our journey, IA&AD have been viewed with skepticism and its role has been typecast as that of fault finders. While it is true that the nature of the audit function is one, that of, pointing out deviations, yet, C&AG has been motivated by concerns of accountability and governance that it shares with the ordinary citizen of the country. C&AG has been reaching out to all its stakeholders highlighting its work and showcasing how it can aid in nation building. This has also been necessary as it was found that for the ordinary citizen, the notion that C&AG is just another one of the investigative agencies of the Government had to be dispelled. The constitutional role and independence of the organization, which C&AG takes so much pride in, had to be disseminated for creating awareness about the organization. This is also one of the reasons why a need for a logo was felt, which identified C&AG uniquely and served as a recall, in addition to the Asoka emblem. While releasing the logo of the IA&AD a few days back, the present C&AG of India Shri Vinod Rai has said that “this duty entrusted to the C&AG by the Constitution is still being carried out with the same dedication and sincerity, if not more, since the last 150 years”.

In keeping with the diverse and multifarious needs of primary stakeholders – the Legislature, the Executive and the Public at large, C&AG are in constant dialogue and interaction with all our stakeholders. Honouring this very commitment, C&AG celebrates 150 years with a Seminar on “Accountability and Governance” in which it invited panelists - International and National public policy experts.

The IA&AD has excelled in promoting good governance through its accounting and audit functions and has fulfilled the expectations of the law makers, the executive and the general public. The external oversight of the C&AG over the public sector programmes has contributed significantly to improvement in the design, implementation procedures and performance information of the public sector programmes and their outcomes. The revenue audit by the Department has yielded recovery of hundreds of crores of rupees of under assessment. The audit entities accept the audit findings of the Department of over payment/recovery in the range of Rs. 15000 crores and recoveries upwards of Rs. 2750 crores are made annually. With a growth in the revenue and public sector spending, the responsibility of the C&AG of India has increased significantly over the years. The new methods of management and delivery of the public sector programmes like public-private partnerships, revenue sharing and license agreements for exploitation and management of natural resources, outsourcing, the issue of sustainable development and increasing use of information technology has made the audit more challenging.

With a dynamic approach the IA&AD has been equal to the challenge. It conducts audit of thousands of offices every year. The C&AG of India presents about 100 audit reports to the Parliament and the state legislatures. The objective and apolitical approach and a meticulous professional procedures in audit had earned the confidence of all sections of the political leadership and bureaucracy besides that of the common pubic. The Department has attained a pivotal position in the community of global supreme audit institution.

According to the vision and the mission statement released by the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Department strives to be a global leader and initiator of national and international best practices in public sector accounting and auditing and has been recognized even before Independence for its credible, balanced and timely reporting on public finance and governance. The mission statement enunciates the current role and describes what the Department is doing today. It states that mandated by the Constitution of India the Department promotes accountability, transparency and good governance through high quality auditing and accounting and provides independent assurance to the stake holders-the Legislature, the Executive and the Public- on the public funds being used efficiently and for the intended purposes. While releasing the statements the Prime Minister has rightly mentioned about the “two developments which have altered the patterns of spending public money phenomena. The first is the progressive devolution of powers and resources to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Though progress in this area cannot be said to be satisfactory, we hope that in the years ahead the Panchayati Raj Institutions will be empowered much more with finances, functions and functionaries. The institutions of accountability therefore will have to realign their processes to reflect this new emerging reality. The other development is the increasing number of Public Private Partnership projects both in the Centre and in the States. The Central as well as many State governments have used this route successfully for impressive investments in the infrastructure projects. With time, Public Private Partnership will be increasingly used in diverse areas. There is, therefore, a need to improve the structure of Public Private Partnership arrangements to ensure that they are transparent, ensure adequate competitiveness and adequately safeguard the public interest. I expect that the Comptroller & Auditor General will play a leading role in ensuring that these new initiatives deliver as intended.”

Depending upon the objective of audit, the audits can be classified into three categories. These are compliance audit, financial audit and performance audit. Apart from these audits, number of audits of information technology systems and environmental issues have also been done.

The Department has 219 offices throughout the country. And many of these offices are housed in landmark buildings. As this office was set up during the British Raj, many of the offices in the state continue to be in the same buildings. The Department at present is in possession of great historical and glorious heritage buildings. Yarrows and Gorton Castle at Shimla and the Treasury building at Kolkata are some of the magnificent examples of such buildings which have been restored to provide modern amenities while retaining the external facade and original shape intact.

Another hallmark of the Department is the rich professional and artistic excellence of its officers. Some of them are: the Nobel laureate Dr. C.V. Raman the youngest Deputy Accountant General, Grammy award winner music maestro Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kathak dancer Padmashri Shovana Narayan, Smt Malashri Prasad noted singer of All India Radio, cricketer Debashis Mohanty, Umpire Swaroop Kishen and international footballers Kiran Khongsai, Gunbir Singh and Manoharan. (PIB Features)

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