As the current Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, Vinod Rai, prepares for retirement in May this year, speculations and machinations in the corridors of power are on to find a suitable candidate to step into Rai’s eminent shoes, particularly after a scintillating tenure in which his office exposed the biggest of corruption scandals to rock the government’s boat several times. The CAG is the supreme audit institution of India and is responsible for overseeing the best of national and international practices and follow and implement them in the functioning of public offices, besides and filing reports that are ‘independent, credible, balanced and timely’ on the operations of the government and bureaucratic machinery as well as public finance and other schemes. The CAG is mandated by the Constitution of India under its Chapter V, which means that unless an amendment comes along, this body is indissoluble and forms an integral vigilance organisation that serves as the external auditor of public sector companies, in addition to looking into financial transactions of central and state governments. Moreover, the head of this prestigious institution enjoys the same status as the chief justice of Supreme Court and is responsible for carrying out impartial probes into the various financial accounts of the government. Given the current CAG Vinod Rai’s luminous stint since January 2008, he has indeed lived up to the core values upheld by the institution, which are independence, objectivity, integrity, reliability, transparency and balanced approach.
It is under Rai’s excellent supervision that several scams and corruption cases as big as the 2G Spectrum telecom scam, the coal block allocation scam as well as the fodder scam came to light, all covering massive amounts of money that was siphoned off from the pockets of the public exchequer. Ceaseless laundering of tax payers’ money to fill in the coffers of the politicians, middlemen, bureaucrats and businessmen has become a moot point for civil revolt against rampant corruption in public services and unholy nexus of public and private sector companies to loot the aam aadmi in the face of rising inflation and economic slowdown. In this context, the brouhaha over the process of selection of Rai’s successor reeks of hypocrisy and double standards from across the political board. While creation of the selection committee is a good idea, and must be following the line of the selection procedure followed in cases of choosing the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and the National Human Rights Commission Chairman, inclusion of ministers from the government such as the finance minister, especially when his own government is mired in corruption scandals, might not be a step in the right direction. Can the inclusion of ministers from this very government which is under the scanner in the selection committee be deemed unbiased? Moreover, the names doing the rounds all denote the covert hands of banking, coal and other corporate lobbies and none of the candidates look poised to succeed the superlative Vinod Rai.