New Delhi, Feb 9: Ever since the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitted a report about the exchequer losing Rs 1.76 lakh crore due to the 2G Spectrum scam, the UPA goverment has been unhappy with the top auditor. When the report on Coalgate compounded the ruling coalition's woes, Congress leaders and even senior ministers targeted CAG Vinod Rai.
Given this background, the government's unease over his Feb 7 speech at Harvard University in the US is not surprising. Speaking on ‘Social Obligation of Public Auditors' at the Kennedy School of Public Affairs, the CAG said: "we were advised by the highest in the land, not to exceed our mandate which they believe to be mere accountants and to conduct mechanical audit of government's expenditure".
Rai said that in view of the aforementioned advice the CAG is now "introspecting" whether "our constitutionally mandated responsibility ends the moment we have placed our reports in the Parliament or is it in any way beyond this mechanical function that we perform."
He pointed out that the CAG "may not be able to wipe out corruption, but endeavour to uncover instances of crony capitalism." In his opinion, the government "should be seen to support enterprise per se and not particular entrepreneurs."
Rai stressed that "democratically elected representatives can only be held accountable if they, in turn, can hold accountable those who implement their decisions. An important ingredient of this accountability cycle is an independent and credible supreme audit institution capable of scrutinising the stewardship and use of public resources."
The UPA was quick to react. Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari slammed Rai. "It is most unfortunate that the CAG, rather than validating the integrity of his numbers, chooses to criticise the government on foreign soil and at a foreign forum," he noted.
Referring to Rai, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh quipped: "All have their defined roles. He is an accountant. What does he want to be if he does not want to be an accountant - the prime minister?"