Audits of local bodies need to be further strengthened given the huge public funds that get disbursed across the country on this count, G C Murmu, Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) said on Thursday.
Delivering the valedictory address at the two-day Accountants General Conference which concluded here on Thursday, Murmu highlighted that the 15th Finance Commission had recommended a grant of ₹4.36 lakh crore to support various programmes of the duly constituted local governments for a five-year period between 2021 and 2026.
Murmu said that there is a need to assure that the grants are properly utilised and programmes and schemes are effectively implemented.
“Our audits of local bodies, therefore, need to verify whether the crucial fiscal steps, as recommended by the Commission, such as (i) setting up State Finance Commissions (ii) acting upon its recommendations (iii) presenting the action taken to the state legislatures concerned (iv) putting the accounts of local bodies in the public domain and (v) fixing minimum rates for property taxes, have been met”, he said.
Local government authorities would also need to independently verify whether the grants provided for basic social services, such as sanitation and meeting the open defecation-free target, solid waste management, drinking water provisions, rainwater harvesting and water recycling, have been effectively used for the purposes, as recommended, Murmu added.
Murmu said that the four themes on which the groups of IA&AS officers deliberated at the two-day conference were, OIOS-towards transformation, Next steps towards strengthening Local Bodies Audit, Identifying Socially Relevant Audits and Reporting on Sustainability of state finances.
Highlighting on some other issues the CAG pointed out that ‘there is an urgent need to balance systemic oversight with micro-level oversight, in order to arrive at a satisfactory balance between overall assessment of executive interventions at the system level and deterrence from deviant executive action at the micro-level’.
The CAG stated that its chief function is not only to examine facts and figures, and prepare quality audit reports, but also select relevant issues for auditing priority. ‘We must ensure that the work of the Parliamentary Committees and our own audit reports are harmonised and synchronised to the fullest extent possible. This is of utmost importance to ensure effective Parliamentary oversight over the Executive’ he added.