|The other side of CAG|
|Tuesday, 09 August 2011 00:00|
Given its larger than life scam-busting image of recent times, it was easy to ignore the set of reports CAG put out on Friday along with the one on the Commonwealth Games that grabbed all attention—not only is the Opposition asking for the Delhi chief minister’s resignation, Parliament even adjourned due to this on Monday. In many ways, some of the other reports, such as on the state of India’s coastal security, are even more important. In the case of the Coast Guard, which was caught napping during 26/11, CAG’s performance audit found things hadn’t improved much. Only about 50% of the targeted acquisitions in the 9th Plan and only 43% of the planned acquisitions in the 10th Plan could be finalised. At least 16 Coast Guard stations did not have basic facilities like jetties for berthing ships or fuelling facilities. It also noted that the Indian Coast Guard possessed only 65% the required force level in terms of ships and vessels and 48% force level in the aviation arm by end December. The fact that a 1,000-tonne MT Pavit could drift undetected on to Mumbai’s shore last week is a testimony to just how right CAG is.
In the case of the railways, CAG talks of how capital assets are being run down with sharply lower provisions for depreciation and will affect safety—witness the sharp rise in accidents in recent months. CAG also points to the high R15,000 crore loss on passenger services—the accounting reform programme initiated in February 2006 has been delayed by over 29 months! In the case of fertilisers, CAG points to the fact that while the requirements of fertilisers went up more than 70% in the last 11 years, domestic production went up only 11% (subsidy outgo rose 8.5 times). Nor is it immediately clear fertilisers were being used judiciously. While fertiliser consumption rose 46% between 2003-04 and 2008-09, production of major crops rose only 16%. Sadly, none of what’s pointed out in performance audits such as these make it to the front pages of newspapers or to the well of Parliament.