J&K comes out with structured framework for audit of all deptts, PSUs, Corporations

Timelines fixed for action on findings, shift to e-audit begins
*Monitoring & Follow-Up Cell at UT, Divisional level

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Oct 30: For the first time, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has come out with structured framework for the audit of all departments, Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), statutory authorities, Corporations and other entities in a time bound manner in order to enforce financial discipline and accountability.
Moreover, timelines have been fixed for necessary action on the findings of the audit and strategy chalked out for complete shift to e-audit in a phased manner spread over next three years. Even Monitoring and Follow-Up Cells will be established at the Union Territory and Divisional level so that audit exercise is taken to the resulted oriented conclusion.
The Directorate of Audit and Inspections was created in Jammu and Kashmir in the year 1996 under the administrative control of Finance Department with a view to enforce financial discipline and accountability in the Government departments but during all these years no serious attention was paid towards having structured framework for audit.
Now, 24 years after the establishment of Directorate of Audit and Inspections, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has come out with Audit Manual, which besides delineating role and responsibility of the Audit Organization contains detailed guidelines and procedures to be followed in conduct of audit and drafting of reports.
Moreover, the Manual outlines the professional standards to be maintained by the audit personnel and prescribes a mechanism for audit follow-up and review at various levels so that audit exercise is taken to some result oriented conclusion. The Manual will be applicable for audit of all Government departments, Public Sector Undertakings, statutory authorities, Government corporations and other entities which are under its administrative control.
In the Manual, enough thrust has been laid on e-audit as an adaptive strategy to overcome the constraints for physical audit of records and to bring an element of technological intervention in audit exercise so as to eliminate physical visits, reduce auditor-auditee interface and ensure optimal use of time and resources.
As per the Manual, e-audit has already commenced on pilot basis in at least 50 offices during the financial year 2020-21 and audit organization will completely shift to e-audit mode in a phased manner in next three years.
Moreover, thrust has been laid on snap audits, which are based on test check instances since verifying each and every documents and records is quite time consuming, Similarly, there will be special audits either on the request of any department or suo-moto on the basis of reliable inputs to look at a specific area of an organization’s programmes, functions and activities.
Likewise, there will be concurrent audit, which is a systematic and timely examination of transactions to ensure accuracy, authenticity and compliance with procedures and guidelines.
More importantly, there will be audit of schemes to ascertain whether the same are being implemented economically and efficiently and are producing the desired results; verify the extent to which the implementing agency is effectively discharging its responsibilities especially financial; ascertain whether there are instances of over-payment, loss, extravagance avoidable excess or infructuous expenditure attributable to improper planning and verify whether community assets created under the schemes are properly inventorised and distinctly visible on the ground.
As per the Audit Manual, the Financial Department will have the powers to conduct fresh audit of any department in case there are apprehensions that the audit has not been conducted in true spirit; initiate disciplinary action against the delinquent officers/officials engaged in conducting the audit and order a special audit of the concerned department.
“As it may not be possible to audit all offices every year, a scientific method should be in place to select offices cautiously for the purpose of audit to ensure that all departments/DDOs are covered in a cycle of two years”, the Manual said, adding “since the objective of conducting internal audit is to ensure effective conduct of activities and achievement of desired goal by the department, the offices will be selected on the basis of degree of risk parameters so that high risk entities are given focused attention”.
An approved Annual Audit Programme of the departments will be finalized by 15th of March ever year keeping in view targets fixed by the administrative department during budget discussion or otherwise.
Moreover, there will be verification of receipts, payments, contingencies, grants-in-aid, public works and audit of procurements (goods and services). The most important aspect of the Audit Manual is review of utilization certificates, which otherwise receive least attention of the concerned authorities despite being repeatedly pointed out by the departments of the Union Government.
It has generally been seen in almost all the departments of the Jammu and Kashmir Government that response to audit findings remains dismal as such the Audit Manual has laid enough thrust on this important aspect.
Now, the audited departments will have to submit a detailed para-wise reply to the Audit Inspection Report within a period of 15 days positively and Audit and Inspection Directorate will issue rejoinder to the auditee about settlement of paras together with detailed remarks as to what further action is to be taken against outstanding paras.
“The Deputy Director shall prepare and furnish monthly progress report to the Directorate of Audit and Inspections by 10th of following month giving details of number of audit reports issued during the month and the number of paras involved; total amount held under objection as per the audit reports; total amount suggested for recovery as per the audit reports issued during the month; total amount of misappropriation/losses pointed out in audit reports; number of compliances received during the month and progressive pendency position of audit reports, paras and amounts held under objection, amounts suggested for recovery and amounts identified as misappropriation”, the Manual said.
For effective monitoring and follow-up of the Audit Reports there will be an Audit Monitoring and Follow-Up Cells at the Union Territory and Divisional level. Moreover, the Deputy Director concerned of the Directorate of Audit and Inspections will prepare preliminary Draft Annual Report at the close of financial year containing department/ DDO wise details of outstanding audit paras by or before May 31 every year.
It is hoped that Audit Manual will go a long way in enforcing financial discipline and accountability in the Government departments, Public Sector Undertakings, Corporations and other entities.