UPA ministers may fret and fume against comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Vinod Rai but there’s only so much they can really do; any relief from him is unlikely as his term expires only in January 2014.
Rai, whose reports as the government’s auditor have given the opposition the much-needed ammo against the UPA government, has been under fire from various ministers and Congress functionaries. But with the guarantee of a six-year-term, Rai seems safely ensconced in his vantage position.
The government’s frustration with Rai’s style of functioning found another outlet on Sunday when V Narayanasamy, the Union minister of state for the prime minister’s office, reportedly told a news agency that the Centre was mulling a suggestion to constitute a three-member CAG.
He made this observation in the context of a suggestion from former CAG VK Shunglu that like the election commission, the CAG should be a multi-member body to bring in more transparency and accountability.
Shunglu, too, was apparently irked by Rai’s comments about the government’s functioning.
However, Narayanasamy quickly retracted his comment, claiming that he had been misquoted.
The agency, though, has stood by its report, saying the minister had observed that the government was actively considering the suggestions made by the Shunglu committee — one of them on making CAG a three-member body.
But, legal experts said, this is easier said than done. The CAG is appointed under Article 148 of the Constitution, and this provision is only for a single member body. “In case the government wants a multi-member CAG, then it has to amend the Constitution,” said one such expert.
Now, given the fractured polity and the fact that the UPA-II does not have even a simple majority in the Rajya Sabha, leave alone the two-thirds required to push for a constitutional amendment, any change in the Constitution looks like a distant dream.
The BJP had demanded that a collegium comprising the PM, the chief justice of India, the speaker and the leaders of opposition of the two houses appoint the CAG. But, the government rejected it.