Role of CAG in the Pandemic | UPSC

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IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 9th Oct 2020

Fortune always favours the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.– P. T. Barnum

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020.

EDITORIAL HUNT #179 :“Role of CAG in the Pandemic | UPSC

Role of CAG in the Pandemic | UPSC

K.P. Shashidharan
Role of CAG in the Pandemic | UPSC

K.P. Shashidharan is a former Director General, Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

      HEADLINES:

Keeping vigil even during unusual times

      CENTRAL THEME:

With corruption likely in pandemic management, the CAG’s audit can ensure checks and balances in the health sector

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : CAG

      MAINS QUESTION:

With the nation spending substantial resources to manage the pandemic. Discuss the role of CAG in India . -(GS 2)

      LEARNING: 

  • Role of CAG
  • Corrupt Practises during Pandemic
  • Statutory responsibilities of CAG

      INTRODUCTION: 

The latest India-specific data on COVID-19 infections is alarming.

  • CONTEXT : Karnataka State Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the CAG to conduct a special audit into the purchase of COVID-19 equipment within 15 days.
  • PROCEDURE : The CAG is to constitute a special team of its employees to get the audit of all purchases of COVID-19 equipment .

The exercise highlights the role and significance of the national audit office in these unusual times.

  • FUNDS AND EXPENDITURE : The panel also asked the CAG to conduct an audit of expenditure incurred by the State government under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

      BODY: 

OPPORTUNITY FOR GRAFT

  • POLITICAL ALLEGATION : The funds (to the tune of ₹2,000 crore) were siphoned off to purchase inferior quality of personal protective equipment kits, sanitisers, ventilators, masks and other equipments.

The equipments are at prices higher than those prevailing in the market is a serious one.

  • CORRUPT PRACTISES : The opportunity to indulge in corruption exists in disaster management.
  • EMERGENCY PROCUREMENT : In emergency to save lives and reduce sufferings ; there are a chances to obfuscate rules and procedures.
  • COMPREHENSIVE AUDIT MECHANISM : If all the major purchases by government entities at all levels are audited by the CAG, there can be substantial improvement in disaster management.
  • PURE GOVERNANCE : It will usher in better transparency, integrity, honesty, effective service delivery and compliance with rules and procedures and governance.

A CONSTIONAL MANDATETITU

  • STATUTORY MANDATE : The CAG has the inescapable constitutional and statutory mandate and responsibility to ensure public accountability, transparency, effective service delivery and good governance.
  • REGULAR PROCEDURE : The management of a pandemic is not an exception to this; though in the expediency of saving lives and alleviating suffering.
  • EXCEPTIONS : There can be reasonable exceptions to compliance with established rules and standard operating procedures in procurement.
  • PRIORITY : People’s health is a priority audit theme and so is big-ticket public expenditure.

The CAG has issued an order creating a new vertical — health, welfare and rural development on June 1, restructuring the office of the Director General of Audit, Central Expenditure.

  • PERFORMANCE AUDITS : It is necessary that the CAG undertakes performance audits of COVID-19 related procurements, the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and Employee State Insurance (ESI) hospitals.
  • AUDIT OBJECTIVES : This may include the procurement of equipment and drugs for CGHS wellness centres and polyclinics, laboratories and hospitals.

EXAMPLE
The CGHS provides health-care facilities to about 34.19 lakh beneficiaries, including government employees, pensioners and MPs, incurring an expense of ₹5,113 crore.

  • QUALITY CHECK : A beneficiary survey will become part of the audit process to bring out efficacy of service delivery and the availability and quality of drugs.
  • ASSURANCE ON HEALTH SERVICES : Auditing ESI hospitals and dispensaries is expected to provide the assured health-care services including infection control and hygiene.
  • WELL ESTABLISHED PROCUREMENT METHODS: The government entities must have established and effective controls over expenses to purchase equipment.

Since the lockdown, there has been substantial government expenditure.

  • AUDIT RECOMMENDATIONS : It can contribute to improvements in various aspects of disaster preparedness, management and mitigation.
  • RULE BOOK : All governments and government agencies must have established effective controls over disaster preparedness and management and related expenses (with proper documentation).
  • PERFORMANCE AUDITS : The CAG’s performance audits are driven by economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
  • TRACKS EXPENSES : The audit will focus on expense tracking and achievement of outputs and outcome, in qualitative and quantitative terms.
  • VALUABLE INPUTS : The entire process of procurement of COVID-19-related equipment and drugs, proper documentation, and compliance with rules and regulations can be streamlined with data analysis.

BENEFITS OF AN INSPECTION

  • RED FLAGS : There are usually red flags in disaster management, emergency procurement and related expenditures.
  • OVERLOOKED INCONSISTENCIES :  COVID-19 may provide an opportunity for scamsters to siphon off public money where normal and prudential financial regulations cannot be fully enforced.

STATUTORY RESPONSIBILITIES OF CAG

The statutory responsibility of CAG as an independent, objective, and non-partisan constitutional authority are:

  • ASSESSMENT : It includes appraising disaster preparedness .
  • MANAGEMENT : To ensuring that management and mitigation operations .
  • PROCEDURAL FLAWS : Check for procedures are complied with, and proper internal controls are in place.
  • DOCUMENTATION : Ensuring that there are proper records, documentation, authentic, accurate, reliable and complete information and data.

GUARDIAN OF PUBLIC PURSE : Providing assurance to people’s representatives, tax payers and the public at large that government resources, including funds and assets are being used prudentially.

  • RISK ASSESSMENT : Providing assurance that risks are assessed, identified and minimised with established disaster management process and procedures.
  • JUDICIOUS USE OF RESOURCES : offering assurance that resources are being used economically efficiently and effectively for achieving the planned objectives and that benefits have gone to the targeted beneficiaries.

      IASbhai Windup: 

  • CERTIFYING COMPLIANCES : The internal audit must also ensure compliance with applicable rules and procedures even in disaster-related disbursements.

Generally accepted government auditing standards require that an audit is planned and performed with sufficient, appropriate evidence to the audit findings.

  • CONCLUSION OF AUDIT : A conclusions based audit specifies objectives , scope , long and short term gains and losses.
  • PURE DEMOCRACY : All public entities management must be accountable and ensure that resources are managed properly and used in compliance with laws and regulations.

For a positive growth of India it is important that programmes are achieving their objectives; and services are being provided efficiently, effectively, and economically.

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Role of CAG in the Pandemic | UPSC

 

 

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