Discuss the constitutionally enshrined role of CAG. What are the safeguards provided in the constitution for the effective functioning of CAG?
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is an independent authority established under Article 148 of the Constitution of India, which audits all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments, including those of bodies and authorities substantially financed by the government. The CAG is also the external auditor of Government- owned corporations and conducts supplementary audit of government companies in which Union Government has an equity share of at least 51 per cent or subsidiary companies of existing government companies. The reports of the CAG, submitted to President & Governor, are examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Committees on Public Undertakings in the Parliament of India and the state legislatures upon being laid on their respective tables.
ROLE OF CAG AS PER CONSTITUTION (ARTICLE 148 TO 151 OF PART V)
- The overall role of CAG is to uphold the Constitution of India and the laws in the field of financial administration.
- Collective responsibility of executive to legislature in the sphere of financial administration is secured through CAG reports. CAG is an agent of the Parliament and conducts audit of expenditure and receipts on behalf of the Parliament. Therefore, he is responsible only to the Parliament. In furtherance of this, Article 149 confers the power of Auditing accounts of government and its agencies upon CAG. In this regard he is free to decide the scope of audit with respect to legality, regulatory or proprietary nature of audit. As a supplementary role to this aspect, he Submits the audit reports to the President & Governor (in case of Union & state respectively) who shall cause them to be laid before Parliament and state legislatures (Article 151)
- CAG is concerned only at the audit stage when the expenditure has already taken place and he has no control over the issue of money from the consolidated fund (i.e. he acts as only Auditor General but not the Comptroller)
- He advises the President on the forms in which accounts shall be kept for Union and states (Article 150)
- CAG, as the head of Indian Audits & Account Department, advises President in the formulation of rules regarding its conditions of service (Article 148 (5))
Additionally, under Article 149 of the constitution, the CAG’s (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971 was enacted by Parliament which prescribes further duties in the nature of audit and accounts related matters.
SAFEGUARDS PROVIDED IN THE CONSTITUTION FOR EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING
Since auditing is a task of impartial evaluation of the performance of governmental functions, it requires autonomy for the CAG. Constitution has thereby secured independence via following provisions:
- He is appointed by the President by a warrant under his hand and seal and his oath of office requires him to uphold the Constitution of India and the laws made there-under.
- He is provided with a security of tenure and can be removed by the President only in accordance with the procedure mentioned in the Constitution (same as a judge of SC).
- He is not eligible for further office, either under the Government of India or of any state, after he ceases to hold his office.
- His salary and other service conditions though determined by the Parliament cannot be varied to his disadvantage after appointment.
- His administrative powers and the conditions of service of persons serving in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department shall be prescribed by the President only after consulting him.
- The administrative expenses of the office of CAG, including all salaries, allowances and pensions of persons serving in that office are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India and are not subject to the vote of Parliament.
In the modern complex governance challenges, where there is blurred boundary of execution and auditing, the role of CAG has become challenged by overburdening tasks, resource & manpower crunch, political patronization which has made the CAG a victim of cross firing among and between various political actors and judiciary. These urgently necessitate restoration of independence of CAG and facilitate the functioning of its mandated constitutional role.