Monday, March 25, 2013

PM-headed panel for CAG selection mooted

NEW DELHI, March 25, 2013

Eminent retired bureaucrats and members of the Forum of Retired Officers of Indian Audit and Accounts Service have demanded the creation of a selection committee headed by Prime Minister to select the new Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. The term of current CAG Vinod Rai ends in May.

In a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, they have argued that need of the hour was a "transparent, institutionalised selection mechanism" for the appointment of the next CAG.

They have contended that when such a committee procedure had been adopted for the selection of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and the National Human Rights Commission Chairman, the same procedure should be applied for the selection of the CAG.

The proposed selection committee should comprise the Finance Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the PAC Chairman and, possibly, the Chief Justice of India or other eminent legal luminary.

The signatories to the memorandum included the former deputy CAGs, J.N. Gupta, B.P. Mathur, R. Parameswar; and the former Secretary Ministry of Water Resources, Ramaswmy R. Iyer.

The former bureaucrats did not favour the current criteria, which selected only those who had served as Secretary for the CAG post. They strongly recommended selecting deserving Deputy CAGs who had vast knowledge and experience of government accounts and audit.

"In fact, according to the Forum, the practice of selecting only those who had served as Secretaries is open to question, as apart from the fact that most Secretaries are unlikely to have the in-depth knowledge needed for the position of CAG, it could be argued that a background as a Secretary to the Government of India is very likely to lead to questions of conflict of interest, as the CAG may find himself or herself having to audit decisions taken by him or her earlier in the capacity of Secretary. It may be recalled that a question of possible conflict of interest did arise recently in the case of the CVC," the memorandum said.

Copies of the memorandum have been submitted to the Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Lok Sabha Speaker and a few MPs.

The former officials further stressed that the selection of the CAG should be unanimous and not by the majority principle on the plea that the rationale of a broad-based selection committee would be negated if the government retained a majority in the committee and the majority view prevailed.
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