Need to institutionalize behaviour or service audit

Several incidents and controversies in the recent past point to a missing link or a loop which allows miscreants in several fields to circumvent the rule of law and ethics even when they give an impression that everything they do is legally correct. This can be rectified by introducing “service audit”

Presently, there are institutional arrangements for audit of accounts which ensure vouching of items of expenditure in government and both public and private sectors, which responsibility is mainly shared between the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and chartered accountants. The CAG, regulators and supervisors do take care of the need for post-expenditure performance audit of end-use of funds by selective performance audit of fund flow to projects and services.

 

Judiciary, the likely falling in place of the much debated ‘Lokpal’, ombudsmen and arrangements for redressal of customer grievances and a host of other institutional arrangements are also expected to handle their responsibilities in respective areas within their mandates. But, unfortunately, several incidents and controversies in the recent past point to a missing link or a loop which allows miscreants in several fields to circumvent the rule of law and ethics even when they give an impression that everything they do is legally correct.

 

CAG Vinod Rai recently chaired Moneylife Foundations 3rd Anniversary and spoke on “Government Accountability is the key to a Vibrant Democracy”.

To access the event report, please click here.

 

Performance Audit involves assessing whether government policies, programmes and institutions are well managed and are being run economically, efficiently and effectively. This is a task of potentially great significance—at a practical level for citizens and at a more abstract level for the health and vitality of democratic governance.

For performance auditing to focus on citizen trust in government, government audit organizations should be equipped to design their audits to focus on equity as well as efficiency, and effectiveness. They need to provide work that allows citizens and elected officials to exercise accountability for the use of authority as well as the use of funds. When selecting and designing audits, audit organizations should consider at least the following types of equity: costs, services, access and coercion. It is a matter of comfort that in the Indian context, the CAG has evolved a system of Performance Audit which can meet these challenges effectively. But neither the present audit arrangement nor the regulatory and supervisory framework, go beyond ‘compliance’ issues. When lawyers take charge of governance, laws get manipulated to suit the convenience of the masters who put them in charge of governance.  It is in this context the concept of ‘Service Audit’ or behaviour audit’ becomes relevant.

 

Long back, Kiran Bedi told an interviewer that everyday, before going to sleep, she used to ‘audit’ her own interactions and activities during the day and satisfy herself that she was on the right track. This, she said, helped her to make necessary and appropriate corrections, where necessary, quickly. The service audit discussed here is expected to help institutions and through them the society to make online corrections in policy formulation and implementation. Two recent incidents shocked those who took those in authority when they said ‘let law take its course’ seriously. One, the reported revelation that there was an apparent conspiracy between the CBI prosecutor in the 2G scam investigation and one of the accused in the scam. Two, in Kerala, the Director General of Prosecutions advised the state government against reinvestigation of a sex scandal, despite the Supreme Court having recommitted the main case to the high court, rejecting a state government appeal. In both the cases, the public feeling is that individuals who took quasi-judicial/ judicial decisions or gave opinion were guided by the support the accused garnered from the powers that be.

 

CAG Vinod Rai at Moneylife Foundation: “Our report on VVIP helicopter deal will be out soon”.

 

The institution of service audit should be responsible

  • To take cognizance of biased decisions by public servants including those in the private sector who either handle public funds, like banks which accept public deposits, or corporates which mobilize capital and funds from public.
  • To provide broad guidelines for formulating appropriate norms for a “code of conduct” for such public servants.
  • To conduct selective audits and bring out reports for government to frame appropriate policies to ensure that service providers and public servants do not hijack the law of the land.

 

The above suggestions are illustrative and once accepted “in principle”, the government may have to cause a comprehensive study before considering an appropriate legislative framework to support introduction of service audit.

 

Other stories by MG Warrier

 

(M G Warrier is a freelancer based in Thiruvananthapuram.)

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M G WARRIER
1 decade ago
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