Sunday, June 20, 2010

Audit the auditors!

India has an ages old institution called Audit and Accounts. They are supposed to be the guardians of fiscal propriety over all the Government spending in India. They act as if all funds for Government use will be misused and are in the habit of cutting down ruthlessly many financial proposals. They can not visualise the needs of development.

Had India listened to their objections it owuld be still in the 50s stage of development. That is not all they are negative about. After a project is over or deaprtment's have collected revenue or spent allocations on administration they attack with knives and magnifying glasses. They are essential for good governance, but not the way they are allowed to delay and pospone and question technical plans way beyond their competency.

In today's Indian Express of the 21st of June, 2010, is a report how the kitchen equipment bill for the Commonwealth games inceased by Rs. 13 Crores (or approx $ 3 mln) most probably because of their objections.

A tender for hiring the Kitchen equipment was released on the 27th of June, 2008. 25 bids were received and the contract allotterd to a group of firms formed by Delaware North of Australia, Taj Stats of India and PKL of London. On the 3rd of February, 2010 (!!!!!) this contract was cancelled as earnest money of about Rs. 3 million was not deposited.

Now the whole process has to restart and they will have to buy this expensive equipment. Result: Cost increase by Rs. 13 Crores (from the earlier Rs. 20 crores for hiring equipment to Rs. 33 crores for buiyng equipment). Too high a price to pay for sluggisheness. Protest government interests by all means, but not so inefficiently!

There is more to their recklessness. They pretend that they are doing their duty when they are vilified for being too particular. But this is only in some cases. Where expenses are in billions or millions they are quite lax.

For instance see the picture below:

It shows people from a civilian truck going with jerry cans to have them filled up from an Army truck in Ladakh, just above Deskit in Nubra. For decades large scale pilferage from Defence stores in the forward areas has been conducted with impunity. Every year teams of auditors scour the records and physically visit army bases but never ever find out anything more than minor faults. About five or so years ago the J & K police seized about 45 empty oil tankers going into an army base in Ladakh. They were supposedly delivering POL. That is when the scandal broke out in the open, but though some army officers and soldiers were penalised none of the army of auditors were. Had these worthies been doing their jobs this pilferage would not have become so brazen. Even now pilfered army stores like tin food and sleeping bags etc are available in shops thoroughout Ladakh. It is an unintended public service for which the army is thanked repeatedly and profusely, but their can be other prinsipled ways of being similarly generous. This way the ring leaders and the racketeers profit.

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