Millennium Post

Wanted, a free and fair CAG

With months left for the end of the term of the present Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai, frantic lobbying has started for the next CAG. While banking secretary D K Mittal has the support of a powerful section of political and corporate lobbyists, the Congress and the BJP want their own man in.

The post of the CAG is an important one and it requires someone who can rise above personal or professional affiliations. The post of the CAG is established by the Constitution of India, which   also spells out its role by saying that the CAG audits all receipts and expenditure of the union and state governments. He is the external auditor of government-owned companies. The reports of the CAG are taken into consideration by the Public Accounts Committees, which are special committees in the Parliament of India and the state legislatures. The CAG is also the head of the Audit and Accounts Department.

The CAG has in recent times piloted several reports which indicted the government. It has also kept the pressure on business houses by exposing scams like the Coalgate and KG Basin controversy.

Thus the on-going lobbying for the post is worrying, for one doesn’t want a person as CAG who will feel indebted to any political party or business group for his appointment to the post and will work in their interest, rather than in the interest of the nation. At a time when the country has lost all faith in political heads and corruption is widespread, the honesty and integrity of the CAG is one’s last hope.

The authorities have for sometime been trying to shape the post to suit their purpose. Debates have raged over whether the CAG should be made into a three-member team. While it is true that a single person in power can end up being more corrupt, the single-person format seems to have worked for the country till now, and expanding the CAG can be seen as an effort by the powers that be to put their own man in.

Mittal, who has emerged a favourite for many, doesn’t have a very clean record and has had associations in the past with various dubious business groups. But whether it is this, which has made him unpopular with finance minister P Chidambaram, who will eventually recommend a name for the post, or whether the minister wants to put in a candidate who is in the good books of his party is highly suspect.

The answer to putting a deserving candidate in the CAG’s chair lies perhapsm, in making it free of political or corporate intereference.
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