Why audit observations taken casually?


An audit, in common parlance, is to test the reliability and validity in respect of the information provided mainly in respect of financial and allied matters by a department, an institution, a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) or any company and the like. It is not only to verify and certify whether work has been done in accordance with rules, procedures, norms and under proper authority but also whether internal controls, systems, checks and balances are in order. Any discrepancy, fraud, irregularity, deviation, surpassing given authority or powers, wrong and manipulated financial statements, non or under implementation of specific programmes and schemes for public welfare are looked into by the auditors and shortcomings pointed out in the audit reports or audit observations. The latter part is as important as the former that of setting right the irregularities within stipulated time and sending such report of total compliance or rectification to all concerned authorities including the auditors. Having said all this, unfortunately the working culture of treating audit and audit related matters as very serious is still found in wanting in most of the Government departments and the PSUs etc in Jammu and Kashmir which means not meticulously attending to each and every observation and not replying the same point wise hence not rectifying the pointed irregularities. The climax of things is that each year the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India points out this glaring fact in its report and again, it finds the same position with no improvement at all. Again, this year the CAG has come out with this statement that even after explicit directives from the Finance Department, audit observations are not taken seriously. Is it not an embarrassment to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir since the CAG, as a constitutional and highest auditing authority of the country, files the report in the Parliament wherein such audit observations and continued non rectification of irregularities and shortcomings by the concerned UT departments are duly mentioned? If that is the case, what action is taken by the Government against those departmental heads who take such audit observations quite casually, non- seriously and unpretentiously. If Government schemes and programmes for the benefit of the common people are specifically tailored and funds too allocated, why implementation should be under rated, poor and even hopeless and this being pointed out regularly by the CAG in its reports but with no effect is not warranted. The latest report goes to this extent, looking to the hopeless performance in implementation process, that “the quality of internal control in selected departments has a negative impact on the success of programmes and functioning of the departments.” On important issues of corrective action and improving service delivery to the citizens – report to be submitted thereon within six weeks as recommended by the auditors, the fact of there being no replies from the department or even from the Government, has been duly mentioned in the audit report. In other words, the Handbook of Instructions for speedy settlement of audit observations/Inspection Reports which provides for prompt response by the concerned authorities while on the ground, total non compliance and non seriousness are found, thus set rules and procedures stand violated. Why should the wells be sunk when the fire was raging instead of making prior arrangements that, now committees are sought to be framed to monitor progress which even if recommended by the auditors was tantamount to providing comfort to those concerned officers and authorities who had to do it all by themselves and in time. Unless audits and prompt response to audit requirements as enumerated in audit reports are linked with Annual Performance Reports on the officers and also linked with their promotions and even sanctioning of annual increments and in instances of pointing out of grave and serious irregularities in audit reports – connected with disciplinary proceedings, we are afraid, no perceptible improvement could be expected. The question is why should audit and audit reports at all be treated so casually and with impunity?