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Trust deficit talk prompts govt, CAG to make conciliatory noises

Trust deficit talk prompts govt, CAG to make conciliatory noises
Finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday said he intends to work with CAG to erase the impression of adversaries in an attempt to restore trust and confidence in all institutions.

Addressing a Comptroller and Auditor [CAG] conference, Chidambaram said the official auditor and the government have been cast as adversaries to each other in the aftermath of recent audit findings.

‘Unfortunately, however, some dissonance has crept into the public discourse and for reasons which are inexplicable, the CAG and the government have been cast as adversarial to each other,’ Chidambaram said.

‘It is my intention and desire as minister of finance to work with CAG to erase the impression of adversaries and restore trust and confidence in all institutions of government,’ he added.

Chidambaram said that the CAG has played a key role in addressing issues of good governance and the government is obliged to take necessary actions to address gaps in governance.

He said since policymaking by government is often through trial and error and audit is a post decision exercise, hence the both come up as adversaries to each other.

‘Policymaking is often through trial and error. Decisions are taken often without full info and in an environment of uncertainty.

Audit is a post decision exercise. Perhaps because of the nature of functions, they are cast as adversaries to each other,’ he added.

The Supreme Court of India in its 27 September opinion had said that auctions are not the only permissible method for disposal of natural resources across sectors.

Chidambaram said the government would work to soon put in place a modern financial reporting system.

Following which Rai said, ‘Audit is not an adversary. Neither is it merely a fault finding mechanism. We like to see ourselves as providing an objective and balanced feedback to the government without fear or favour.’

His comments come in the backdrop of criticism of CAG by government on its reports on coal block allocation and 2 G spectrum.

 ‘We do not for a moment think that it is our business to tell the government what to do and what not to do. We tell the government, through our audit reports, whether departments were able to achieve what they set out to achieve,’ Rai said.

 He said the benchmark against which the auditors examine and assess the performance of the departments are not created by them, but by the government itself.

 ‘If government lays down a policy, we see whether that policy is being implemented. Government lays down the rules, we see whether these rules are being followed,’ Rai said.

He said the CAG has been advising government on the need to bolster internal audit mechanism within the departments.   
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