CAG dismisses allegations of malfeasance in transfer of officers

NEW DELHI: The CAG on Friday denied any malfeasance in the transfer of auditors connected with reports that unearthed alleged irregularities in the Centre’s flagship Bharatmala and Ayushman Bharat schemes, saying transfers and postings are a matter of administrative convenience, and attaching ulterior motives to these is highly presumptuous.

In a statement, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said audit reports went through multiple hands before being approved by the highest authority for tabling in Parliament.

”To set the record straight, matters of transfer and postings are a matter of administrative convenience and to read ulterior motives into these is highly presumptuous,” the auditor to the government said.

The statement came after the Congress criticised the government for reportedly transferring auditors Atoorva Sinha and Dattaprasad Surkayant Shirsa who were in charge of audit reports scrutinising the Dwarka Expressway project, and Ashok Sinha, who had initiated the audit of the Ayushman Bharat scheme. CAG said audit reports are prepared by an extensive team over a prolonged period, comprising officers entrusted with fieldwork, central processing and finalisation at the highest level.

The audit reports, it said, also went through multiple hands before due approval, and subsequent tabling in the Legislature, and hence cannot be attributed to any one officer. ”Furthermore, both referred reports have been presented to the President after approval at the highest level, and laid before the Parliament, and are in the public domain. To attribute any malfeasance to these routine transfers driven by administrative requirements is completely incorrect,” the apex auditor said.

The CAG reports, which were tabled in Parliament in August, highlighted alleged irregularities in some aspects of the Bharatmala project, a 1,400 per cent increase in cost and inconsistencies in tendering for the Dwarka Expressway project in the national capital and lakhs of claims under the Ayushman Bharat health insurance being made by beneficiaries lined to a single mobile number.

The CAG officials were reportedly transferred last month.

The opposition Congress accused the government of intimidating CAG officers who had exposed ”corruption” within various schemes. Party General Secretary Jairam Ramesh accused the Modi government of threatening and removing individuals who expose corruption.

CAG in the statement dismissed contentions that it was not signing or approving any fresh reports and verbal orders have been issued to stop all fieldwork, saying it ”is categorically and unequivocally rejected”. The auditor said the number of audit reports approved by the CAG G C Murmu has been on a sharp ascent over the past three years, attaining an all-time high of 173 audit reports in 2022-23 (Union and states).

Of these, 29 Union audit reports and 78 state audit reports were tabled in Parliament and State Legislatures in 2022-23. In the current financial year to date, 43 audit reports have been approved by the CAG.

CAG had approved 165 reports in 2021-22 and 123 in the preceding year.

Source: Press Trust of India

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