New Delhi, Oct 15 (UNI) ''Stringent auditing'' of children's mid-day meal scheme was underscored by India's Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan this evening.
''The scheme as a whole appears to be delivering favourable results,'' the Chief Justice of India remarked, addressing the 24th Conference of Accountant Generals.
But, he stressed that ''there is a need to ensure stringent auditing at the grassroots level to ensure that vital public resources reach the intended beneficiaries of the same.'' The conference as well as a new office building of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India were inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil who underscored the value of effective audit.
Patil said, ''one of the biggest challenges is the leakages in delivery systems. These need to be plugged. Sometimes, instead of real achievement on ground, there are 'paper achievements'.
''Such tendencies can be curbed by an effective audit and monitoring system,'' she said, bringing to mind criticism that the country's ''supreme'' audit system is not as effective as it should be.
For instance, while the CAG's reports object to government authorities' spending errors-- non-spending, under-spending, overspending and misspending-- it may be decades before it finds out that steps it recommended were not acted upon.
Dwelling on CAG auditors' role as a watchdog, Justice Balakrishnan said growing non-governmental or public-private involvement in such key sectors as education, health and infrastructure has ''important implications for auditing agencies.'' The first implication, he said, ''is that of the need for more rigorous auditing in circumstances where public money is entrusted to private parties.'' ''While the growth of the spirit of public-service on part of private players is laudable, there is always a concomitant need to check pilferage or inefficient use of funds.
''For example, the mid-day meal scheme for children enrolled in government-run primary schools has extensively relied on the services of private contractors.
''While the scheme as a whole appears to be delivering favourable results, there is a need to ensure stringent auditing at the grassroots level to ensure that vital public resources reach the intended beneficiaries of the same.'' ''Furthermore, the importance of auditing cannot be understated for the numerous financial and infrastructural ventures that are being undertaken under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
''The second major implication is that of involving individual citizens and voluntary sector organisations themselves in the auditing process.
He suggested that the CAG office may take a cue from village level social audits of spending on public works in the wake of such enactments as the Right to Information or the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
For instance, private groups have used the laws to compel the disclosure of 'muster-rolls' by local government officials and ensure workers' minimum wage payment under the scheme.
''The Office of the CAG can expand its' involvement in these localised initiatives,'' Justice Balakrishnan pointed out.
The Chief Justice also touched on what he called conceptual similarities between the function of auditing and the judicial process and emphasised the independence of both.
''The independence of these institutions as well as the vigilance of ordinary citizens are the pre-conditions for ensuring that the functions of the state reflect efficiency as well as respect for democracy.'' He asked the CAG office to take steps ''to ensure that ordinary citizens can easily access its' annual reports.'' UNI MJ BDP KN2315