Honourable Rashtrapati Ji, Honourable Speaker Lok Sabha, Honourable Chairman Public Accounts Committee, Distinguished Guests, Senior Officers from the Government, Members of the Audit & Accounts fraternity, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a matter of great honor for me to welcome you to this inaugural function of the 28th Conference of the Accountants General.
2. We are very grateful to the Hon'ble Rashtrapati ji for having agreed to inaugurate this conference. Sir, we have been always indebted for your continuous guidance and support to our department. Your presence here instills a sense of confidence and pride as we endeavor to further hone our skills and galvanize our efforts to fulfill our mandate and the expectations from our department.
3. We are fortunate to have with us Smt. Sumitra Mahajan, Hon'ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Madam, we look forward to your valuable advice, encouragement and support in fulfilling our Constitutional mandate.
4. We are also privileged with the presence of Prof. K.V. Thomas, Hon'ble Chairman Public Accounts Committee. Sir, you have been a constant source of confidence and we look forward to you for words of encouragement and guidance for our Organization.
5. With the duties which are mandated under the Constitution and the independence ensured therein, the institution of the CAG plays an important role in strengthening governance, while ensuring the executive's accountability to the Parliament. While doing so, we focus on remaining constructive. This is borne out by the fact that a number of our recommendations have been accepted and implemented by the governments, both at the Union and state levels. During 2014-15, due to Audit interventions the Union Government and state governments accepted recoveries amounting to over ₹ 39,000 crores. During the year itself, actual recoveries effected were to the tune of ₹ 4500 crores.
6. Today, the world is a global city. While on one hand, the governments are pitching in for digital governance, private participation in delivery of public services as well as inclusive growth, on the other hand the stakeholders are seeking assurance on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of governance. In this context, our Organization understands the role which it is expected to play in view of high expectations of all stakeholders. We therefore strive to ensure, that we are in sync with the dynamic working of the governance; and our processes, tools and methodologies conform to the highest international standards and best practices. By doing so, we keep ourselves prepared to meet the challenges of changing times.
7. To attain our objectives and to effectively respond to the changes taking place in our environment, this conference of the Accountants General is organized every two years to brainstorm on the possible strategies we should adopt, to address the emerging challenges facing us. This year we would be discussing four topics in the Conference. These are Auditing the programs related to Sustainable Development Goals; Challenges for the Department post- Integrated Financial Management Systems (IFMS) in the States, Perspectives and concerns on Local Bodies Audit and Meeting challenges in Revenue Audit. These topics represent the wide range of issues our Department has to contend with, impacting both the receipts and expenditure aspects of governance.
8. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been adopted by the United Nations as universal agenda for the post 2015 period and encompass some of the most burning issues facing the mankind today like hunger, poverty, illiteracy etc. Audit has to devise credible methodology to provide assurance on the economy, effectiveness and efficiency with which governments would be implementing the goals and targets under the SDGs. In this context, we are not only preparing ourselves to meet the requirements of national audit, but also playing a leadership role in auditing the preparedness of UN for meeting this challenge. As member of UN Board of Auditors our organization is fully geared up to shoulder all our international responsibilities.
9. Sir, the implementation of the IFMS in the states will bring in significant changes in the accounting and financial management, and as key stakeholders in the accounting systems of the states, we would be discussing our preparedness to meet the challenges of the IFMS.
10. Our contribution in augmenting the revenues of the governments is well established. This Conference will also examine ways to further enhance our contribution to the revenues of the governments and thereby their fiscal sustainability.
11. Lastly, the Conference will also deliberate on the audit strategy for the third tier of the governance, that is, the urban and rural local bodies, which have witnessed an increasing trend of administrative and financial devolution and therefore must be tested on the touchstone of accountability applicable to other tiers of governance.
12. I am hopeful that the deliberations in this Conference would lead to strengthening the functioning of our Institution, which in turn will impact the overall governance and accountability mechanism in the country.
13. I once again extend a very warm welcome to Hon'ble Rashtrapathi Ji, for having spared his valuable time to be with us. I again extend a warm welcome to the Hon'ble Speaker Lok Sabha, and the Hon'ble Chairman Public Accounts Committee, for gracing this occasion. I welcome all our distinguished guests and members of the media, on behalf of the Indian Audit & Accounts Department, and on my own.
Honourable Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker Lok Sabha, Shri Shashi Kant Sharma, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Shri K.V. Thomas, Chairman, Public Accounts Committee, Dr. P. Mukherjee, Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Shri Vinod Rai, former Comptroller & Auditor General of India, participant Accountant Generals coming from all over India. Distinguished guest, Ladies & Gentlemen.
It is indeed a privilege for me to be present amidst you this morning once again at the same hall to address the Accountant Generals in the biennial conference 28th edition organized by Comptroller & Auditor General of India. They belong to the service perhaps one of the oldest organized service in our country. Immediately after the Queen's proclamation in 1858 when the power of administration was transferred from a Mercantile Company to the British Sovereign within three years of which an organization came to exist. Another act was passed to establish Comptroller & Auditor General, nomenclature varied from time to time. But in 1861 the Act of Auditor General of India was passed and I remember in 2011 we celebrated the 150th year of the establishment of that Institution through that Act. Technically the Auditor General was posted even in 1858. As it happened CAG was posted in 1948 even before the acceptance or introduction of the Constitution on 26th January, 1950. I am mentioning these things only to highlight how a tradition has built up for centuries and which has still relevance today. Of course, with always having dynamic changes with the change of time. In the different context, once Albert Einstein made a comment but I like to use this comment on this occasion. Einstein's observation was-It is important not to stop questioning. Coming to address the conference of the CAG it comes to my mind that I am amongst the very persons who always put questions and whose main job is to put questions-why?
Over the years, a very healthy and cordial relationship between your Organization and Parliament has been established. Even long before independence accountability of the executive in matters of money and finance to the Legislatures, even with a very limited power the legislatures having in those days, the organization of PAC, Public Accounts Committee in Parliament or State Legislature came to exist in 1921. It was one of the oldest Parliamentary watch dog body in the whole world and there was no wonder, how as the member of the Public Accounts Committee, a legendary Parliamentarian Satyamurti put the members incharge of finance on the mat and once observing the session of the central legislative assembly, even Mahatma Gandhi was very sceptic about it observed that if there were ten Satyamurtis perhaps the Britishers would have left ten years ago. I am telling this story to point out the importance of important relation between Public Accounts Committee of parliament and the organization of the CAG. I am happy that Honourable Speaker of the House of Lok Sabha in addition to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee have shared their perceptions about the role of the CAG's organizations both in the centre and in the states. As it is very correctly pointed out India's economy is growing and emerging as one of the fastest growing economy in terms of GDP. In terms of purchasing power parity though we are way behind from the first three major economic powers of the world, where the US economy is more than thirteen trillion US dollars followed by China around 11 trillion US dollars, we are very behind them. But keeping aside that fact the fact remains in the last decade almost 10-12 years India's economy registered steady GDP growth and had a short period of 8 percent plus GDP growth, within the last decade. Despite major financial crisis of 2008 and still the lingering problems, Eurozone crisis which has very adversely affected India's external sectors as export. Europe and North America are yet to take off but Indian economy has registered a GDP growth of 7.5 percent plus in 2015 and is expected to maintain this rate in 2016. And in this context the governmental activities have increased very substantially over the years. With the change of perceptions of the role Government is to play not to maintain mere law and order within the society internally and to protect the border from the inimical forces from outside. Functioning of the modern Government whether it is a declared welfare state or not has expanded many fold. In terms of monetary transactions I find at the time of independence in 1946-47 the receipts of the Government of India amounted only to ₹ 3706 crore and its expenditure was to extent of ₹ 3443 crores. Now you look at the Receipts and Expenditures of 2014-15 it is over 15 lakh crores of rupees. Even look at the budgetary figure more than often I quote because it appears to me very funny and interesting that the sovereign India's budget for the first year of independent India total revenue was ₹ 176 crores and total revenue expenditure was ₹ 197 crores and perhaps Finance Minister today or even at the level of Finance secretary Mr. Shashi or Mr. Vinod Rai can tell me that they provide exemption more than that on day to day basis, but that was the volume of the transactions. Activities have changed many fold. Concept of Governance are rapidly changing and I am happy that the Government has accepted in its transactions the advantage of technological changes which have been brought in the system and sometimes I wonder that I am the beneficiary when I address the Vice Chancellors and students of the Central Universities spread all over India. I can simply have to connect myself with the help of experts through the knowledge network and speaking from my study I can reach them. They can put questions to me and I am to respond to their queries and twice I have this exercise just moving from my study to another room where these instruments and connecting machines are setup. Therefore, these technological solutions which we are finding today more and more act in our governance. We not only reach the people, Government to the people in the fastest possible manner, our delivery services will improve substantially. This is one of the most deficient area in our governance that we are not able to reach the benefit to the intended beneficiaries and invariably your organization will have to comment on it and write it because you are meant for them. Under Article 148 to 151 of the Constitution has empowered and rather entrusted you with this job and in that way you are discharging as the trustees of the Constitution of India putting queries, pointing out lapses, identifying fault lines and recommending the corrective lines. You are guiding the PAC and close relationship between PAC and CAG's organization is ensuring the Parliament that what 543 members of Lok Sabha or 240 members of Rajya Sabha cannot do on the floor of the House on their behalf PAC ably assisted by CAG are doing it and in this connection I would also like to bring to one specific point particularly taking advantage of the presence of Speaker and Chairman, Public Accounts Committee that this aspect needs to be looked into. Volume of Reports comes to Parliament through CAG on all important transactions in the year but a small portion of it can be dealt by the Public Accounts Committee simply because of non-availability of time. Then why, what would happen to these other transactions which are not chosen by the PAC to examine. One idea I am leaving with the Honourable Speaker she can take it up with the Government, Prime Minister and leader of the Houses that now we have constituted the Departmental Standing Committees. These Departmental Standing Committees are entrusted to make suggestions to the budget to of course post-facto, post-facto scrutiny of the budgetary proposal relating to their Department so that they can be entrusted by making amendments to the rules. That whatever PAC can do, PAC should discharge that job but in regard to other Audit observations in respect of Departments and Ministries, which are not examined by PAC could be looked into by these Departmental Standing Committees. Of course there would be necessity for political consensus and if the Honourable Speaker takes the lead and convince the Prime Minister. I think it may be possible to have some sort of additional accountability apart from the job which is being done by Public Accounts Committee. Of course there will be constitutional necessities I am fully aware of it being in the Government for so long because money and finance are exclusive domain of the House which is directly represented not the Upper House but that problem could be resolved. As it has been resolved, I myself had to tackle a very ticklish issue on that issue every year the associate members of the Rajya Sabha to the Public Accounts Committee. Once when a motion was moved I was then leader of Rajya Sabha in early 80's. Some Honourable member perhaps jokingly made a comment-"That how is it always the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is from Lok Sabha not from Rajya Sabha". I think it was a part of the joke or light comment but somehow the Chairman took very seriously and made an observation which caused a furor. I am not going into that but which required we to have couple of meetings with the leaders of various political parties and going between Chair and then to resolve the problems. We have the system of associate members but in a ruling, Speaker observed that if associate members exercise their right fully as a full member, no way-Thomas will bear me out because he is PAC Chairman for pretty long period of time-that in the transaction of the business in deliberations there is no distinction between the members and associate members. Therefore, those technicalities of the supremacy of elected House of Parliament over money and finance can be examined and an amicable applicable solution will be found out. This is my suggestion, I thought I will take this advantage of the presence of Honourable Speaker in this Conference.
I wish you all success.
No doubt your deliberations taking into account the very valuable and important suggestions emanating from Honourable Speaker, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and while introducing the subject the observations made by CAG himself will be the guiding principles of your deliberations for the next two days. I wish you all success. You are the custodians rather you are the trustee of the Constitution of India to play the role of most important watchdog of helping Parliament to understand the detailed intricacies of financial transactions in the public funding by various Organizations, Government and others, where the money are spent from Consolidated Fund of India protecting the interest of the people, carry on this job.
I wish you all success.
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen