Ashish Kashyap Writes a Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

It is with a sense of ominous foreboding, that I heard your Government’s recent suggestion to reform the CAG and turn it into a multi-member body. Congress spokespersons have been training their guns at the constitutional institution ever since the 2G report fiasco. The no-show at the recently concluded auctions, instead of sparking some soul-searching from the telecom ministry and the Cabinet – has led to a bout of self-congratulation and “I told you so” rhetoric.

While the claims that the 2G loss estimates were erroneous have been exposed elsewhere, I will just make the obvious statement that  the under-recovery at the recently concluded 2G auctions represents market apathy today, and not the market conditions of 2008. The failure by the Government to reach the Rs. 40,000 crore rupees target should be seen as the logical aftermath of serious mishandling of spectrum allocations and the consequent judicial mire that the govt. finds itself in. But much more troubling than this, is the suggestion that the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India somehow needs some reform.

Without going into the glaringly obvious timing of the “so-called reform”, I would like to point out that the multi-member CAG is not a panacea for all the ills that plague our polity. Democracies, the world over, have both single-member and multi-member audit agencies and both seem to work equally well. The single member Supreme Audit Institutions of the US, UK and Canada are working as efficiently as the multi-member forms in France, Germany and Japan. India’s CAG is a highly respected member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI). Why clip its wings?

This is not an urgently needed reform. It can be questioned whether it is a “reform”, at all. Our Constitution did not provide for the possibility of a multi-member CAG, while it did provide for multi-member bodies, in case of the Election Commission.   Surely, our founders were not just forgetful!

Reforming the structure of the CAG will require a constitutional amendment, and a major structural change which will take effect only after the tenure of the current CAG chief, Mr. Vinod Rai, is over.

Will the Congress still be interested in this reform?

And since the CAG, as an institution, affects the states as well, shouldn’t they be consulted and a consensus reached before proceeding with such a major change?

For the first time in our constitutional history, the institution of the CAG is exercising its mandated powers, without fear or favour. This reminds us of the case of T.N. Seshan and the Election Commission. Let us not rush into curtailing the powers of this autonomous institution.

A few lines from W. Szymborska, adapted for our purpose, may do more justice to my concerns —

We have a soul/CAG at times. No one’s got it non-stop, for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it. …… 

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

It’s picky:

it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.…….

We need it

but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too. ”    

The CAG is a vital part of our Constitution’s soul.  Let us not stifle it.

Mr. Prime Minister, don’t shoot the messenger.

Regards,

Ashish Kashyap

Image Courtesy: [The Viewspaper]

Disclaimer: The above article is the personal opinion of the author and not of the publication.