CAG a watchdog, not just an accountant: Rai

Vinod RaiPulling no punches during a speech in the US on Thursday, Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai accused the government of trying to reduce the country's public accounts watchdog to an accountant with no role in auditing policy.

Rai said in his speech at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that the role of the public auditor cannot be confined only to placing reports in Parliament.

He rebutted criticism that the CAG was exceeding its mandate, saying that since Indian democracy is maturing and the urban middle class is becoming more involved in public affairs, his office was ''treading a new path in the belief that the final stakeholder is the public at large".

Rai, whose reports on various scams like those in the telecom and coal mining sectors had raised the hackles of those in government, said the CAG would endeavour to uncover instances of crony capitalism and counselled the government to support enterprises and not entrepreneurs.

"We may not be able to wipe out corruption, but our endeavour is to uncover instances of crony capitalism. Government should be seen to support enterprise per se and not particular entrepreneurs," Rai said.

He said, "Should we as public auditors limit our role to placing reports in Parliament or go beyond that and seek to sensitise public opinion on our audit observations - especially so in social sector audits such as rural health, primary education, water pollution, environment, drinking water, etc?"