President Ram Nath Kovind Wednesday called upon official auditor CAG to move towards outcome based auditing and provide ‘insight and foresight’ for improving government programmes.
Inaugurating the 29th Accountants General Conference in New Delhi, Kovind also appreciated the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as an institution for graduating from promoting accountability to ensuring that right things are done in the right and least expensive way.
“Through your financial, compliance and performance audits, you have been providing valuable oversight on operations and giving recommendations for improvement. It is the time, the institution thinks of giving insight and foresight as well, he told the Accountants General.
Stating that audit is not an end in itself, but a means to make governments work better, Kovind said there was a need to emphasise that outcome is a more meaningful measure of programme value than output.
“You may deliberate on how would you as an organisation identify, understand and measure outcome to study the impact of programmes. You may have to realign strategy in a manner that it measures outcome, the President said.
Observing that a government department is an ‘organic entity’, Kovind said any breakdown or deficiency in service reflects vulnerability in the system.
“As conscience keepers, please ask yourselves whether it would help to report on such soft spots and weaknesses in the system – or only on the symptoms manifesting in small deviations. Good systems outlast bad men and women. This is where you can contribute,” he said.
Audit provides an unique opportunity to the government to see where the things are going wrong and why, he said, adding that CAG should share the good practices followed elsewhere for the benefit of executive.
With CAG using data analytics for auditing, Kovind said through the use of such techniques, the institution can assist in not only giving insights for the present but also aid in providing credible forecast for future.
With the tools appropriate for managing and examining the expanding data in a digital economy, you are rightly positioned to anticipate long term trends and emerging issues related to the economy, education, health, environment , national security, among others, he said.
You are not only the keeper of national accounts, but conscience keeper to the nation and a key partner in India’s progress,” Kovind told the Accountants General.
He said as the government is implementing a number of welfare schemes through urban local bodies and Panchayats, CAG could partner with them to build capacities for audit reporting.
Speaking on the occassion, PAC Chairman and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the CAG should not shy away from holding the government accountable for decisions like demonetisation, GST that have caused serious economic distress, and defence purchases.
He also made a case for more independence to the institution and pitched for audit of public private partnership (PPP) projects by the CAG.
In his speech, CAG Rajiv Mehrishi said the 158-year old institution is constantly reviewing its systems, with a focus to improve audit effectiveness and changing paradigm of the government.
He said the official auditor will be able to conduct 100 per cent audit of expenditures incurred and revenues earned by the government provided all the transactions are conducted digitally.
“If we can ensure that all transactions of the government are on IT platform, and are non-repudiable then you can conduct audit of 100 per cent of transactions and move towards a goal, that we have always aspired for, which is assurance.
“Even the United Nations, who we audit, seeks assurance and we ought to, at some stage, be able to provide it to the government,” Mehrishi said.