New Delhi: Politics over its critical reports on scams echoed in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the CAG on Wednesday when BJP leader and PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi praised Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for defending both the CAG and the PAC when they came under attack.
“At a time when democratic institutions are under attack and several scams have come to light, it is heartening that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has come out in support of the institutions,” he said.
Joshi was speaking at the valedictory function of the 150 years of the institution of Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Mukherjee and CAG Vinod Rai, however, steered clear of political issues in their speeches.
The BJP veteran referred to Mukherjee’s speech at the ADB annual meeting at Hanoi which he made this year in which he had said that Indian governance system is fortified with strong checks and balances through institutions such as the PAC and CAG and said “such clear statements really go a long way in infusing confidence in these institutions”.
“I congratulate the Finance Minister for your support and believe that you will continue to support these institutions. They are highly dependent on you for the principle of transparency,” he said.
Joshi also said it was unfortunate that quite recently, faced with CAG’s critical observations in his reports, a section of the press and even some parliamentarians have tried to whittle down the credibility of the institution of the CAG.
“While parliamentarians in India, by and large, have always accorded due regard and respect to the CAG and his officers, however, sometimes unable to stomach fair critical comments in the CAG report, ministers have reacted in an unsavoury manner,” Joshi said.
He recalled that when the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon had made certain derogatory remarks about the CAG in Lok Sabha in 1960, the then Speaker M Ananthasayanam Ayyangar had ruled that CAG is an independent authority whose conduct cannot be “impeached in this manner” however strong the language that might have been used by the auditor.
In his speech, Mukherjee said in a world of growing complexities and uncertainties, the possibility of institutional failures, oversight and ignorance impacting the decision making process cannot be ruled out.
Institutions and individuals, who have the benefit of hindsight, while reviewing the work of others can provide invaluable guidance in improvement of processes to improve decision making and attain greater efficiency, he said.
“We should all be cautious in determining malafide intent as distinct from bonafide errors of judgement or divergent opinions on policy options,” the finance minister said.
Asserting that the government was fully committed to eradicating corruption from the system, he said corruption is a many headed hydra.
Many of its causes were rooted in the colonial legacy of the administration and the excessive government controls over planned economic activity.
“None of us should hesitate in exposing misdemeanour and corrupt practices. But then we should not shy away from reporting the good news as well,” he said appreciating the professionalism and integrity of the officials of the audit and accounts officials in discharging their constitutional mandate.
Joshi said he had made the phone call on 13 July last year to RB Sinha, Director General (Report Centre) in the CAG because he was the nodal officer appointed by the government auditor for the PAC.
To repeated questions on he seeking a briefing from the CAG on the 2G report, he said he was merely asking him about the status of the report which the CAG had promised would be ready in six months.
“I asked him to explain the delay in the report. I never asked him to explain the contents of the report,” he said.
Joshi said the note in question was based on the inference drawn by Sinha of his talk with him which was in Hindi.
The PAC chairman also released an internal communication of the CAG which referred to assurance given by the top auditor on finalising the report on allocation of 2G spectrum as also ‘revenue sharing’ within six months.
He said the CAG had told the PAC that the delay in preparing the report was due to non-availability of documents related to the 2G case from the ministry of finance.
Watch video: No pressure was put on CAG in 2G, says Joshi