CAG reports speak of fiscal imprudence, is anyone listening?

THE GOAN NETWORK | JULY 28, 2022, 12:03 AM IST

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has pulled up the government on several counts — from wasteful expenditure to lack of planning, exposing the chinks in the development and “all is well” story that is being projected. The reports tabled on the floor of the House make interesting reading. A reference is made to Goa Industrial Development Corporation for paying five firms Rs 17.32 crore extra to settle the SEZ litigation on account of a “flawed calculation”. It is brought to light that the GIDC settlement amount of Rs 256.57 crore included construction licence fees and interest charged for the delay. What is shocking is that the government did not appeal before the Supreme Court for submission of revised workings despite knowing of the discrepancy.

On the excise front, the CAG pointed out that the department’s lack of internal control mechanisms, including granting licences resulted in a loss of Rs 11.7 crore from 2014-15 and 2019-20. On the panchayats front, the CAG stated that the director leased out premises which remained unoccupied or partially occupied for nearly three years while continuing to pay rent for the same.

The most shocking revelation is that the CAG report pinpoints the government’s failure to prepare plans and appropriately fix budgets for education over a five-year horizon between 2015 and 2020. This portrays a sorry picture of our education system against the vision that the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant consistently talks about, riding on the National Education Policy initiative. The lack of a budgetary plan contradicts the tall claims on education and exposes the fact that the sector has been completely ignored. Now, that’s some reason for the CM to feel despondent about the standard of education in the State which he has time and again blamed on the teaching fraternity.

On the flip side, the colossal mismanagement of finance is of grave concern because while the government talks of austerity amid a grim fiscal position, where there are no funds to pay even social welfare schemes in time, there is this recklessness that is costing the exchequer over Rs 100 crore.

CAG audits present a fair picture of the failures in governance while evaluating fiscal management. These reports should be used as tools to rectify shortcomings and should prompt the government into quick thinking followed by follow-up action. There should have been an inquiry seeking accountability from respective departments, and ministers should have been held responsible.

The story is quite different here. The government tabled the CAG reports on the last day of the session, not even allowing a debate. The audit is shoved under the carpet and no explanation is provided for the glaring failures pointed out by the CAG. This is a clear indication that there is some method to this fiscal mismanagement that is laid bare by the audit reports.

It’s time the government stops paying lip service to plans of austerity and showing a false sense of ambition. It must take ownership of the decisions because there is public money involved.

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