ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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CAG: A Necessary Evil or a Bulwark?

In the past fi ve decades, the CAG's audit reports, however incisive, were received with general apathy by the government. Contrast this with the follow-up on the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh, 2G and Coalgate reports, which have all triggered criminal cases of one kind or the other. The institution of CAG has suddenly come of age and has realised its public responsibility. A startled government in power has been fl oundering to fi nd a credible reaction. There have been two predictable lines of response - to question the jurisdiction and mandate of the CAG and to question the "presumptive" loss computed by the agency, implying that the reports have no credibility. In other words the main approach has been to "shoot the messenger".

The three basic pillars of the ­Constitution, viz, the legislature, the judiciary and the executive, have the primary responsibility for managing the affairs of the country; how­ever the role of other significant constitutional and statutory bodies in ensuring quality of governance cannot be under­estimated. Institutions like the Election Commission (EC), the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), etc, have a ­major part to play in ensuring quality in administration.

Till the early 1990s, the EC, even though a “constitutional” authority, functioned more or less as a wing of the executive branch – a mild friendly agency sympathetic to the party in power, unwilling to express itself strongly to fulfil its defined role as the guardian of purity in the ­electoral process. With the advent of T N Seshan, the Chief Election Commissioner became an active, independent, strong-willed umpire to oversee fair play in the electoral process. Seshan gave teeth to the organisation – it is widely perceived now that the EC has a strong bark, and a vicious bite when occa­sion demands it. While ­“muscle power” has by and large been ­elimi­nated from national elections, the EC awaits the advent of a new ­incumbent, Seshan in a new avatar, to eliminate “money-power” from the electoral process.

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