Mallikarjun Kharge cites GST, asks CAG to hold govt accountable

The CAG is currently looking into the Rafale deal and is expected to submit its report to the Parliament within two months.

Senior Congress leader and chairman of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to hold accountable the government on decisions that “cause severe economic distress” such as demonetisation or goods and services tax (GST) or defence purchases.

Kharge said outcome-based audit of government schemes is required since governments shift goalposts when failures are apparent. In his address to the 29th conference of accountant generals (AGs) at the CAG headquarters here, Kharge said: “There are few in the government who look upon the CAG as someone who does ‘post mortem analysis’ and acts as hindrance to decision-making. The public should not wonder why constitutional authorities are failing to hold the government accountable on decisions that cause severe distress such as demonetisation or GST or decisions that involve huge amounts of public money like defence purchases.”

Kharge’s Congress party has repeatedly targeted the NDA over its November 2016 decision to scrap currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000, implementation of GST and the Rafale fighter aircraft deal with France.

The CAG is currently looking into the Rafale deal and is expected to submit its report to the Parliament within two months. While lauding the CAG for initiating “outcome-based audit”, Kharge cautioned that unless the government was forced to spell out the outcomes when it launched schemes, it would be difficult to hold it accountable. “We’ve seen how governments shift goalposts once the failures become apparent. During demonetization, the government kept changing what the objective of the scheme was,” said Kharge.

With former CAG Vinod Rai in the audience, Kharge said the CAG’s reports should not be based on “presumptions or assumptions”. Under Rai, the CAG brought out reports on the 2G scam and the coal block allocation scams. In the 2G scam report, the CAG pegged the figure of presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the national exchequer in allocation of 2G licences. Similarly, the CAG, again under Rai, arrived at a figure of Rs 1.86 crore while pegging the presumptive loss to the exchequer in the allocation of coal blocks.

Kharge made the conference a virtual public arena and said: “As a constitutional body, the CAG’s report should not be based on presumptions or assumptions that cast aspersions on other public servants. A populist report that seeks to build the reputation of one institution by undermining the public’s faith in another would serve neither.”

When contacted, Rai declined to comment on it. But a senior CAG official said Kharge should have refrained from making politically loaded statements from the platform. Kharge also made the case for the CAG audit of public-private partnerships where what he termed as public money is being used to “privatize profits but socialize losses”.

Reacting to Kharge’s speech, Anil Baluni, Rajya Sabha MP and head of BJP’s media cell, said: “Today, Kharge has become a specialist on economy like Manmohan Singh. These specialists ruined the Indian economy to the extent that India was being considered among the fragile five till a few years back. It was called a black spot. Today the entire world…is praising the financial management of the Modi government. All promises are being fulfilled.”


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