Keeping vigil even during unusual times
#GS2 #Governance #CAG
With the nation spending substantial resources to manage the pandemic the role of the supreme audit institution of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has assumed the significance.
Karnataka Case – How emergency situation is misused for corrupt practices?
- Emergency calls for attention on outcomes rather than rules
- In the expediency of saving lives and alleviating suffering, there can be reasonable exceptions to compliance with established rules and standard operating procedures. As a result, questions of inconsistencies are likely to be overlooked.
- In Karnataka, there was political allegation that funds (to the tune of ₹2,000 crore) were siphoned off to purchase inferior quality of PPEs, sanitisers, ventilators, masks and other equipment at prices higher than those prevailing in the market
- In August 2020, the Karnataka State Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the CAG to conduct a special audit into the purchase of COVID-19 equipment
- The panel also asked the CAG to ‘conduct an audit of expenditure incurred by the State government under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The government had used the SDRF amount for purchase of equipment in various districts’
What is the role of CAG during these times?
- Mandate: The statutory responsibility of CAG as an independent, objective, and non-partisan constitutional authority includes appraising disaster preparedness, ensuring that management, mitigation operations, procedures are complied with, and proper internal controls are in place.
- Realigning to COVID-times: The CAG has issued an order creating a new vertical — health, welfare and rural development on June 1 restructuring the office of the Director General of Audit, Central Expenditure
- Need to audit Health related expenditure: It is necessary that the CAG undertakes performance audits of COVID-19 related procurements, the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and Employee State Insurance (ESI) hospitals.
- Audit objectives may include the procurement of equipment and drugs for CGHS wellness centres and polyclinics, laboratories and hospitals.
- Quality of Governance: As the CAG’s performance audits are driven by economy, efficiency and effectiveness, the audit should also focus on expense tracking and achievement of outputs and outcome, in qualitative and quantitative terms.
- Leveraging Technology: The entire process of procurement of COVID-19-related equipment and drugs, proper documentation, and compliance with rules and regulations can be streamlined with data analytics and AI
Significance of CAG Auditing during COVID-19 times
- Helps Prevent Spread of Pandemic: Auditing of hospitals, dispensaries and labs is expected to provide the assured health-care services including infection control and hygiene.
- Disaster Management: If all the major purchases by government entities at all levels are audited by the CAG, there can be substantial improvement in disaster management.
- Good Governance: CAG audit will usher in better transparency, integrity, honesty, effective service delivery and compliance with rules and procedures and governance.
- Long term benefits: Audit recommendations can contribute improvements in various aspects of disaster preparedness, management and mitigation.
- With corruption likely in pandemic management, the CAG’s audit can ensure checks and balances in the health sector