More than 1,500 issues raised by the central watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), are pending with the government for action, including some cases dating back to 1986.
A review of the latest audit reports by CAG shows that the government has not taken action on several important issues relating to 28 different departments. “It was observed that there were inordinate delays and persistent failures on the part of a large number of departments in forwarding Action Taken Notes (ATN) on audit paragraphs,” says the report.
The chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Girish Bapat says the government appears to lack seriousness about CAG reports with no established system to punish defaulting officials. “In a meeting held in the middle of this year, the chief minister asked all department heads to take action on the issues raised by CAG, but nothing much has changed. I am going to raise the issue in the assembly,” said Bapat.
CAG inspects records kept by various state departments and highlights lapses on account of the government in revenue collection and expenditure. As per the Maharashtra Legislature Secretariat (MLS) rules, the state has to initiate action on issues raised by CAG in its annual reports and submit ATN to the MLS even on issues not selected by the PAC for discussion.
As CAG reports can be voluminous and span several issues, the PAC generally selects a few of the most important paragraphs from the reports for in-depth examination. In 1981, the government decided that even for paragraphs not selected by the committee for discussion, departments concerned would be asked to furnish notes indicating corrective action taken.
Apart from the issues included in its final audit reports, the CAG highlights thousands of lapses during periodical inspections — these are waiting to be addressed by the government too. The state principal accountant general conducts periodical inspections of government department records for correctness and authenticity. These lapses are then compiled into inspection reports that are then issued to the heads of the offices inspected.
A review of these reports pertaining to 28 departments shows that 23,956 issues were pending at the end of June 2011. Delay in taking action on these issues has resulted in government failing to recover or settle nearly Rs1,722 crore, according to the review.
“Despite the matter being taken up with the concerned secretaries many times, the position relating to the recovery of dues remains unsatisfactory. It is recommended that the government ensure that action against officials who fail to send replies to inspection reports and action to recover government funds is taken in a time bound schedule,” said the report.
In June 2011, half of the total members of PAC resigned, protesting the lack of cooperation and coordination between the government and hundreds of PAC reports pending with the state for action.