Wednesday, April 21, 2021

CAG report

Even in our day to day life, everywhere there is one or the other form of audit taking place, be it a family’s expenditure, a shop’s expenses or an institution’s spending. Where and how much was spent and what was the need or the circumstance under which money was spent is the rudiment definition of audit. How can, reportedly, majority of Government departments in Nagaland, afford to be shy of and adopt reticent attitude towards such an important entity as periodic audits sounds queer, strange and totally unwarranted. Audit of expenditure under basic standards is to ensure how funds provided by the Government were spent and in particular cases; how revenues earned and spent by an institution were within prescribed norms and authorized by a competent authority. In fact, the audit of Government expenditure is one of the chief components of audit. It is extremely important in preventing frauds and embezzlements. Recurring and rigorous audits are a guarantee of detecting and preventing irregular and fraudulent practices. And the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India Report tabled in the recently concluded budget session of the State assembly is a telling reminder of the deteriorating state of affairs here. The report revealed 255 cases of non-submission of utilization certificates (UCs) as on March 2018 by Government departments involving a whopping Rs 865.30 crores. Financial rules provide that for the grants provided for specific purposes, UCs should be obtained by the departmental officer from the grantee, but this obviously was flouted, said the report. The major defaulting department was the State Education Department with 28 outstanding UCs involving Rs 215.65 crores. The report also revealed that the School Education Department topped in misappropriation of funds, defalcation and loss of materials cases with four cases involving Rs 82.96 crores, which include Rs 82,000 theft; Rs 82.79 crore misappropriation and Rs 16 lakhs for loss of Government materials. Clearly this is unpardonable as the department is toying with the future of our younger generation. As the CAG report said, due to lack of action to ensure submission of UCs, it could not be ascertained whether the grants had been utilized for the purpose for which they were given. And given the overall condition of Government schools, including infrastructure, across the State, one wouldn’t be far off the mark to conclude that the grants were not utilized for the purpose for which they were given. The School Education Department is also now in the midst of another alleged ‘mid-day meal scam’ brought to light by Nagaland Public Rights Awareness and Action Forum (NPRAAF). The CAG recommendation to the Government to enforce strict compliance to the timelines for submission of UCs by the recipients and any failures scrupulously dealt with action against erring officials will remain recommendation in paper only as in the past years. The report also revealed that only 54 projects (32%) out of 170 projects sanctioned by the North Eastern Council (NEC) got completed in Nagaland during 2013-18. Performance audit on implementation of the NEC funded projects revealed that the projects were selected from the ‘Annual Priority List’ with the objective towards attaining balanced socio-economic development in the State, the CAG report said. However, the basis for prioritization of the projects and reasons for inclusion or non-inclusion of project proposals in the State annual priority list were not available on record. The report also highlighted that there were instances of short releases of States’ matching share, submission of incorrect utilization certificates and diversion of Rs 13.19 crore towards payment of work charged, consultancy charges, departmental charges and procurement of vehicles. Audit office is statutorily authorized as well as mandated to scrutinize, verify and examine all relevant documents, vouchers, bills, expenditure orders and authorizations, contracts and agreements reached at between the executing agencies and the concerned department on behalf of the Government. The audit exercise verifies and looks at the entirety from the angle of prescribed rules and procedures and has to be satisfied about the same having been duly complied with and followed. If everything is alright and there is nothing which could come under the purview of violations, what is the need for playing hide and seek with the auditor? The words of wisdom say that if one hides or avoids, it establishes the guilt.