The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the 29th Accountants General Conference in New Delhi , 2018).
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that the 29th Accountants General Conference is the right occasion and opportunity to introspect and deliberate on what needs to be done to further our mission of promoting accountability, transparency and good governance. The theme of this year’s Conference is “Auditing and Accounting in a Digital Era”. This is extremely relevant today when the government is making great strides in ushering in Digital India.
The President was happy to note that the institution of CAG has come out with a data management policy and is increasingly using data analytics in its audit work. He said that through the use of data analytic techniques the CAG can assist in not only giving insights for the present but also aid in providing credible forecasts. With the tools appropriate to managing and examining the expanding data in a digital economy, the CAG is positioned to anticipate long-term trends and emerging issues related to the economy, education, health, environment, national security among others. These warrant the attention of lawmakers and the executive.
The President said that audit is not an end in itself. It is a means to make governments work better. We have to emphasise outcomes as a more meaningful measure of programme value than output. The CAG may deliberate on how would it, as an organisation, identify, understand and measure outcomes to study the impact of programmes. Such a study of programme effectiveness would be a big boon to policy makers. Such a study should also include a dialogue with the implementing agencies to understand their motivations and perspective.
The President said that in recent times, we have seen a massive decentralisation of funds, functions and functionaries. There is greater flexibility available to state governments. A number of welfare schemes are also implemented through urban local bodies and panchayats. However, it is a fact that accountability mechanisms at the local level are not as robust. The social audit to account whether the money was spent properly, and made the intended difference, is mostly conducted by the scheme beneficiaries. Here the CAG as an institution could partner with local citizens and state audit societies to train them, build capacities and issue advisories on framing of guidelines, developing criteria, methodology and reporting for audit.