Taking cue from the previous UPA regime, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday advised Government auditors not to create an environment of ‘finger-pointing’ and urged them not to ‘sensationalise findings.’

Jaitley’s views sounded similar to the views expressed by the previous regime on the findings of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) in its reports on the 2G spectrum and coal block allocation scams.

“Activism and restraint are two sides of the same coin. He (an auditor) must be conscious of the fact that he is reviewing a decision that has already been taken. Has the fair procedure been followed? He does not have to sensationalise. He does not have to get into the headlines,” Jaitley said in his valedictory address to the three-day conference of accountant generals, organised by CAG here.

Incidentally, the present BJP-led regime used the CAG reports on the 2G spectrum allocation and coal block allocations, where notional losses were estimated at ₹1.76 lakh crore and ₹1.84 lakh crore, respectively, to attack the erstwhile UPA regime.

“You (auditors) question all questionable decisions. You leave footprints of wisdom as far as the future is concerned so that decisions can improve. But don’t allow the system to function in an environment of finger-pointing,” he said.

Referring indirectly to ‘policy paralysis’ during the previous regime, Jaitley said people did not take decisions because of the danger of future review.

“I think it is here that a conference like yours has to realise that are we to be merely involved in an environment that aids finger-pointing, or are we to do our jobs in a straight-forward manner, where questionable decisions are probed,” he added.

The Minister advised auditors to thoroughly scrutinise the decision-making process and eliminate any form of nepotism that may have been exercised.

He said an auditor must be able to distinguish between a wrong decision and a corrupt one.

“If he finds it (the decision) is corrupt, then the level of discretion he exercises in commenting has to be entirely different,” he said. An auditor must adopt “a more liberal approach” when confronted with multiple views, he said, adding that “we live in a society, which by temperament, having learnt the hard way the last few years, has become an over-suspicious society, and therefore, our job is not to convert public opinion into a kind of a lynch mob.”

Good governance

The Finance Minister said audit was essential for accountability and transparency and helped in good governance. If “uncomfortable questions at times were not asked, governance would tend to become despotic and, therefore, in any system of governance, there has to be various laws of accountability, and this is in itself an unquestionable proposition,” he said.