|The mystery of how a report slips under a table - Arun Shourie Part II OF ECONOMY|
Accountable to Legislatures?
The CAG sends his report to the government and the Legislature. The government has to place it formally on the table of the House, along with an Action Taken Report. There are committees of the Legislature that are charged with the constitutional duty to examine the reports threadbare, to assess what the government and the enterprises have to say in response to the CAG’s observations, and to report their conclusions back to the Legislature. Year after year, the CAG lists the number of reviews and the number of paragraphs in which he had made critical observations that have not been taken up for even pro forma discussion by the relevant committee of the West Bengal Assembly. Several of these reviews and observations that he lists were submitted to the State Government and the Legislature a decade earlier! The CAG’s reports contain another table that tells the tale even better. As we noted above, the Government is duty-bound to place the reports of the CAG on the table of the Legislature. Year after year, the CAG records whether even this elementary requirement has been fulfilled. I reproduce the tables that occur in the Reports for the year ending in March 1999 and the year ending in March 2002. A mere glance will nail the lessons. Notice, first, the number of years after the closure of a year that the Special Audit Report could be finalised for submission to Government: delays of three to four years are normal! In the case of the Calcutta State Corporation, the CAG was unable to finalise his reports for 1980/81 till September 2000! Next, notice that in case after case, when the CAG inquires why the Government has failed to even place the Report before the Legislature — forget taking action on its recommendations, just placing the Report on the table of the House — the Government does not care to give even a pro forma explanation. In instance after instance, under the caption, ‘Reasons for delay in placement in Legislature,’ the CAG helplessly records, ‘Not stated by the Government.’ The entry against the Calcutta State Transport Corporation in successive reports deserves reproduction by itself: Reasons furnished by the Government of West Bengal for not placing the CAG’s Special Audit Reports on the Calcutta State Transport Corporation before the Legislature: 1998/99: ‘Adequate printed copies not available for placement’ 1999/2000: ‘Adequate printed copies not available for placement as stated by Government’ 2000/01: ‘Adequate printed copies not available for placement as stated by Government’ 2001/02: ‘The Government has directed the Corporation to print required number of copies of SARs for the years 1980-81 to 1992-93 for laying the same at a time’ Year after year the explanation — that should really be, ‘‘what passes for an explanation’’ — is that an adequate number of printed copies are not available! The CAG finds this so untenable that he starts adding the words, ‘‘as stated by Government’’. By March 2002, the Government is grace personified. It directs the Corporation to have an adequate number of copies printed. Of what? Of reports from 1980/81 up to 1992/93. This in March 2002! Discussion in the House To find out what happens to the reports after they have been examined by the relevant committees of the Legislature, I request The Indian Express to request their correspondents in Kolkata to ascertain:
Santanu Banerjee and Sabyasachi Bandopadhyaya, The Indian Express correspondents, interviewed the Speaker of the Assembly, Hashim Abdul Halim — he has served as Speaker of the West Bengal Assembly longer than anyone else, a full 16 years; they interviewed Subrata Mukherjee, the current Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, they interviewed one of the longest serving MLAs of the Opposition, Atish Sinhai of the Congress.
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