Minister Piyush Goyal
Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), a bane to the previous Manmohan Singh-led UPA II government , has dropped another bombshell. This time it’s showtime of a different kind, for the Modi Sarkar. But will it be held accountable and answer?
Two of the Union Ministries, Power and Health & Family Welfare have been found Guilty: they have released grants of over Rs 26,000 crore in three years, but the auditor found no record of the beneficiaries. Piyush Goyal and Dr Harsh Vardhan are the Ministers of cabinet rank who head the ministry and who should, be held squarely responsible for the reported lapses. Unfortunately, the last session of Parliament began and finished without any discussion on this finding by CAG.
Two Crucial issues arise:
Are funds being diverted for purposes other than intended?
If so, what would be the magnitude of this irregularity if the CAG reviewed the other ministries?
Will India’s commercial television channels, run by tycoons who travel the globe with the prime minister, blare this news on the prime time News hour shows? Since 2010, with the scams around the Commonwealth Games and later the 2-G Scam, the UPA II government was brought down by an ever-vigilant media that, night after night, ran the scam stories. So far only New Indian Express has run this ‘Scam Story.’
In a majority of cases, no MoUs were signed, violating a practice all departments must comply with. While some grants were meant to create capital assets, the CAG, in its latest report on Union Government Finance Accounts, wondered if they met the purpose at all, while in some others, it didn’t rule out the possibility of fraud or misappropriation.
As part of its annual routine, the CAG reviewed the sanctioning and monitoring mechanism of grants, quality and effectiveness of the expenditure incurred in two ministries — the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Power.
The analysis brought to light that during FY14 and FY16, both the ministries separately released grants running into crores, but no centralised records, including names of the grantees, details and nature of assets created, amount of grants utilised, ownership of assets, were maintained.
Grants-in-aid are payments made by the government to government, bodies, institutions or individuals for operating expenses, capital asset creation, and delivery of services. As per the General Financial Rules, 2005, for grants of above Rs 5 crore per annum, MoUs should be signed indicating output targets, programme details, and commensurate input requirements.
Not only did the Ministry of Health blatantly violate this norm, but the Ministry of Power provided no centralised records for verification to CAG.
Who will be held responsible for this brazen unaccountability?
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