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RTI Implementation in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department

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  • Dhirendra Krishna
    Friends, Brief summary of my presentation in the Institute of Public Auditors of India (IPAI) is placed below. It was based on my scrutiny of relevant records
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 17, 2013
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      Friends,

      Brief summary of my presentation in the Institute of Public Auditors of India
      (IPAI) is placed below. It was based on my scrutiny of relevant records of the
      office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India ( C&AG), enabled by the
      RTI Act.

      Like any other public authority, C&AG has not implemented RTI Act in letter and
      spirit. Instruction by Central Information Commission (CIC) about appointment of
      Transparency Officer have not been followed. As such there are no pro-active
      measures to implement section 4 of RTI Act. mThere has not been any visible
      improvement in record keeping under section 4(1)(a) of RTI Act, to make the
      records accessible to citizens. Disclosure under 4(1)(b) are required to be
      modified every year, so that citizens are able to get the information needed by
      them, without submitting RTI application.

      C&AG is a constitutional authority and his oath under schedule III (iv) of the
      Constitution of India places upon him the onus to perform his duties to the best
      of his ability , knowledge and judgement, without fear or favor. Indian Audit
      and Accounts Department assists the C&AG in performing his duties. If there is
      rampant corruption and mis-governance, accounts figures are misleading. There is
      need for transparency in the the way accounts and audit reports are prepared.

      Important issues have been raised in my presentation in IPAI, that need serious
      consideration by C&AG.

      Dhirendra Krishna IA&AS (Retired)

      ................................................................................\
      ....................................................

      Institute of Public Auditors of India, New Delhi

      Summary of Discussions on 8th April 2013
      Implementation of Provisions of RTI Act, 2005 in IA&AD

      President IPAI welcomed the participants to the Lecture-cum-discussion on
      "Implementation of Provisions of RTI Act, 2005 in IA&AD" and briefly introduced
      the speaker, Shri Dhirendra Krishna, IA&AS(Retd.). Copy of RTI Act, 2005 was
      distributed to the Participants.

      2. In his presentation, Shri Dhirendra Krishna briefly explained the background
      of Right to Information Act, 2005 regarding empowerment of citizens in
      effective public accountability. Salient provisions about right to information,
      records, obligations of public authorities, and exemption from disclosure of
      information were explained, in the context of implementation of RTI Act 2005 in
      the Indian Audit and Accounts Department. It was explained that voluntary
      disclosures by public authorities under section 4 of the RTI Act is the key
      element of law, that has not been fully implemented by the public authorities.
      It was explained that RTI Act 2005 was over seven year old, each year the
      disclosures under section 4 were expected to be updated, so that public gets
      information needed by them, without resorting to applications under RTI Act.
      Quality of disclosure needs to by improved, by sustained efforts by every public
      authority.

      3. He explained that preamble of the RTI Act, itself envisaged that although
      revelation of information is likely to conflict with other public interest,
      paramount of democratic ideal should prevail. Democracy requires informed
      citizenry; transparency of information, which is vital to its functioning, to
      contain corruption and to hold the government and its instrumentalities
      accountable to the governed.

      4. He pointed out that Central Information Commission (CIC) issued directions
      under section 19(8) (a) of the RTI Act to the public authorities on 15th
      November 2010, which are available on the web site of CIC http://www.cic.gov.in/
      and all public authorities are expected to follow them. The salient features of
      these directions are:

      • Transparency promotes good governance. Records, documents and files held by
      public authorities can be disclosed on request to the citizens, without any
      detriment to the interest of the public authority. This has not been done,
      largely because of an intuitive acceptance of secrecy as the general norm of the
      functioning of public authorities. This mental barrier needs to be crossed.

      • Secrecy in the functioning of the public authority should be the exception and
      not the norm, as transparency of information is vital to a functioning
      democracy. First step towards promoting transparency is improvement in the
      record-management practices, to make the records readily accessible to public.

      • CIC further directed that each public authority shall designate one of their
      senior officers as "TRANSPARENCY OFFICER" (with all necessary supporting
      personnel), whose task it will be:

      a) to oversee the implementation of the Section 4 obligation by public
      authorities, and to apprise the top management of its progress.
      b) to be the interface for the CIC regarding the progress of (a)
      c) help promote congenial conditions for positive and timely response to
      RTI-requests by CPIOs, deemed CPIOs.
      d) to be a contact point for the public in all RTI-related matters.

      5. He further explained that it should be the constant endeavor of every public
      authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of
      sub-section 4 (1) to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at
      regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet,
      so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain
      information.

      6. He pointed out in his presentation that the Public authorities were to
      implement these obligations within 120 days of the coming into force of the RTI
      Act on 15th June, 2005. Since the action in this regard has been rather tardy,
      the CIC, therefore, directed the Public authorities to take necessary actions
      as stated above within a period of 120 days from the date of these dfirections.

      7. He pointed out that he had invoked RTI Act to scrutinize the records of
      C&AG office about directions issued by C&AG about implementation of RTI Act in
      IA&AD. He summarized the main issues examined by him and his findings as
      detailed below:

      • CIC had clarified the legal position on 10.01.2012 that C&AG cannot deny
      information invoking section 8(1)(c) of the RTI Act, on the grounds of "breach
      of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature." Appeal to full bench of CIC
      by the CAG was rejected and C&AG filed an appeal before the High Court of Delhi.
      High Court concluded, "issues raised in the petition are academic", as C&AG had
      already complied with the orders of CIC. Related files were examined and it was
      found that this issue has been examined in:
      -- Orders passed by CIC on 10 June 2010;
      -- Clarification dated 19 October 2010 by Secretary General Lok Sabha; and
      -- High Court Judgment dated 10.1.2010.
      -- Clarification given by Shri Salman Khurshid, Minister of Law and Justice
      on 19 June 2012, enclosing the opinion of the Attorney General of India.

      • He explained that aforesaid documents have brought about clarity on what
      information is covered by exemption from disclosure under section 8(1)(c) of RTI
      Act 2005. All records of IA&AD are in public domain, according to the RTI Act.,
      therefore, there is need for clear directions in IA&AD, on this subject.

      • File relating to the action taken on the recommendations of the Task Group on
      Social Audit submitted in January 2010 was examined. This has culminated in
      directions by Director General (Audit) on 18.3.2010. Andhra Pradesh and
      Rajasthan offices were directed to formulate action plan to operationalise the
      recommendations of the Task Group on Social Audit. There is need for further
      action, as Social Audit is a mandatory legal requirement in MGNREGA and there
      has been convergence of many programs in MGNREGA.

      • Directions issued by C&AG for preventing "leakage" of audit reports at
      preparatory stages / work-in progress / intermediary documents of IA&AD / etc.
      were examined. He opined that as RTI Act 2005 envisages that public can access
      all records, the term " leakage" seems to be inappropriate.

      • Section 24 of RTI Act enables Central Government to exempt intelligence and
      security organizations from RTI Act by Notification in gazette and several
      organisations have sought exemption from RTI Act. In the RTI quarry raised by
      Shri Krishna, it was asked whether C&AG office has requested Central Government
      for exemption of intermediate documents regarded as "work-in-progress". No such
      request has been made.

      8. On the basis of scrutiny of records about implementation of RTI Act in
      IA&AD, following actions were suggested by him:

      i. General directions by C&AG to field offices about RTI Act were issued in
      2005. There is need for review, based on practical experience during last seven
      years.
      ii. There is need for TRANSPARENCY OFFICER in the office of C&AG and all field
      offices, according to directions of CIC.
      iii. General directions to TRANSPARENCY OFFICER are available in the web site of
      CIC. Nodal designated officer in C&AG office may issue specific directions
      relating to IA&AD.

      9. While concluding the presentation, he placed the following issues before the
      Participants for further discussions:

      • What role can be played by C&AG to ensure constructive use of RTI Act by the
      Executive, for improving governance processes by effective transparency and
      public accountability?
      • Should IA&AD be pro-active, by setting an example in transparency? What are we
      hiding? Will independence of C&AG / IA&AD be impaired, if RTI Act is implemented
      in letter and spirit ?
      • In practice, has there been "frivolous and vexatious use" of RTI Act, with
      adverse effect on functioning of IA&AD ? What has been gained and lost during
      last seven years ?
      • How can IPAI help, in bringing conceptual clarity about the pros and cons ?
      Is there need for structured reconsideration?
      After detailed discussion on these points, most of the participants including
      the President, IPAI felt that the CAG office may consider these aspects.

      President, while concluding informed that next Lecture-cum-discussion will be
      held on 6th May 2013 on "Concept of Whistle Blower" by Shri Mukesh Arya,
      IA&AS(Retired). The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to the Chair.


      List of Participants in the Lecture-cum- discussions on 8th April 2013 on
      "Implementation of Provisions of RTI Act, 2005 in IA&AD"
      1. Shri A.K.Patnaik, IA&AS(Retd.) 2. Shri Awdesh Sharma, Sr.AO(Retd.)
      3. Shri Bhajan Singh, IA&AS (Retd.) 4. Shri Dharam Vir, IA&AS (Retd.)
      5. Shri Dhirendra Krsihna, IA&AS (Retd.) 6. Shri Harish Chander, Director,
      IPAI
      7. Shri J.N.Gupta, President, IPAI 8. Shri J.P.Tripathi, Sr.AO, IPAI
      9. Shri Jogender Nath, Sr.AO(Retd.) 10. Shri K.L.Arora, IA&AS(Retd.)
      11. Shri K.L.Kapoor, Secretary, IPAI 12. Shri Krishan Lal, IA&AS(Retd.)
      13. Shri M.M.Mathur, IA&AS(Retd.) 14. Shri Mukesh Arya, IA&AS(Retd.)
      15. Shri P.N.Koul, IA&AS(Retd.) 16. Shri Rajeshwar Prasad, IA&AS(Retd.)
      17. Shri Ramesh Chandra, IA&AS(Retd.) 18. Shri S.C.Anand, IA&AS(Retd.)
      19. Shri S.N. Gupta, Sr.AO (Retd.) 20. Shri T.L.Gupta, Director, IPAI
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