16 Nov : Amid debate over allowing CAG to audit public-private-partnership (PPP) projects, President Pratibha Patil has asked the govt auditor to gain expertise in reviewing infrastructure sector projects being implemented under the PPP mode.
She also emphasised that public financial accountability and probity were essential for rooting out corruption.
“As on now it (auditing PPP projects) is still a grey area for public auditors. Therefore, auditors should gain expertise for preparing reviews on issues relating to infrastructure projects under the PPP mode, which may involve change in audit methodology and approaches”, she said.
Patil said this while addressing a function to mark 150 years of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department headed by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in New Delhi on Tuesday. She also released a commemorative stamp to mark the occasion.
The government is contemplating allowing the CAG to audit the books of accounts of the PPP projects as they involve significant investment of public funds.
Pointing out that delay in implementation of infrastructure projects was a matter of concern, Patil said, “There are projects that have time over-run or remain incomplete or abandoned halfway, which deprive nation of the full benefits of investment. It is necessary to assess whether such projects are indeed, in public interest.”
The government’s decision to pursue projects in partnership with private sector, she said, “has given rise to a valid question — should not private partnerships be an area where the CAG under its performance audit, … whether value for money is being received…whether the public is getting the envisaged high quality of services?”
Earlier, speaking at the same function, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “There is a need to improve the structure of private-public partnership arrangements to ensure that they are transparent, ensure competitiveness, and adequately safeguard public interest”.
These remarks came in response to an address by CAG Vinod Rai during which he pressed for legislative changes for permitting government auditor to look into the books of PPP projects.
The role of the CAG is presently confined to auditing government institutions and public sector enterprises.
Pointing out that “public financial accountability and probity are essential for rooting out corruption”, Patil said the auditors need to revisit practices and procedures to meet the growing expectations of stakeholders.
“With growing awareness of citizens, their interest in how efficiently and effectively public money is spent, has been increasing”, she added.