Mr. Narayanaswamy, the Minister of State in PMO, has sparked off a constitutional debate. He set off the bunch of remarks, may be to gauge public opinion for the radical restructuring of the supreme audit institution of India, once recommended by the V.K. Shungulu committee.
The comptroller and auditor general, created under the article 148 of the Indian constitution is so distinguished that it is even compared to the Supreme Court of India. The CAG is equivalent to a Supreme Court judge, his tenure is assured, functional independence is guaranteed, and could be removed only through impeachment by the Parliament of India. CAG is a single member body. The debate recently started spins around, whether it has to be made a multi member body or not?
The first limitation for CAG came in 1976, when its previous function of account compiling was taken away by the Govt. Unlike its counterpart in England, CAG cannot control money issued out of the Consolidated Fund of India. With its given powers, the CAG is an auditor, than a comptroller. What has invited criticism is the activism displayed by the supreme auditor.
While auditing, the CAG, comments about the extravagant spending of the govt. branches. It is a well sought role in the atmosphere of rampant corruption in India. It can act as a Supreme Whistle Blower. The problem, arises when CAG fan out its wings to newer roles, never imagined by the Constitution.
It starts commanding economy, it issues directions for the policy makers, and it judges the propriety of expenditure, besides its legality. It is true that CAG is the guardian of public purse. Duty could be extended to see whether money is properly spent. Not any further.
If extended, that will break the boundaries set by the Constitution of India.
Paul Appleby comments: “auditors cannot be expected to know very much about good administration … it is done with narrow perspective”.
Policy making and its implementation has to be done by the executive branch. CAG shall audit and report to the Parliament. Parliament will judge the executive. Judging is not the duty of CAG.
To implement a check over the auditor and to have a matured approach, it is better to make CAG a multimember body. Also the move will help to have accountability and transparency in its functions. The nature and volume of CAG’s functions is increasing manifold as India is in its way up to a developed nation. New recommendations are proposed to include PPPs and NGOs under CAG scanner. So Multi membership will reduce the burden of work over a single member body. When Election Commission was made a multimember one, its efficiency increased.
Many critics suggest that such a move will cause hindrances in its functions and may cause delays. But if such hindrances and delays yield a matured decision, it will be a wise move.