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Follow that rupee
May, 20th 2010

Addressing the National Academy of Audit and Accounts, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari strongly underscored the need for the Comptroller and Auditor General of India to also screen non-profits, societies, trusts and autonomous organisations, given the unprecedented levels of public money at stake.

This is not just a generalised expectation of transparency and disclosure from all organisations with a service mandate, but a matter of vital public trust, because now, these special-purpose vehicles, NGOs, public-private partnerships and local bodies are working with tremendous amounts of public funds. As their donors, we are entitled to know exactly how our money is being spent.

India has ramped up Centrally-sponsored social sector and infrastructure programmes, and as much as 60 per cent of this money has been dropped directly on these organisations. They do not fall under CAG scrutiny, but are instead checked up on by private auditing firms, with their varying methodologies.

These figures arent placed in the public domain, and focus more on squaring financial accounts than on squaring spends with the real situation that is, they can miss fudged official records, and they entirely fail to monitor the projects impact on its intended clients. Despite the fact that many flagship schemes, including NREGA, have various scam-proofing mechanisms built in, too much money still leaks through the sieve.

So, as the vice president stressed, we have too much at stake to allow these NGOs to be unmonitored expand CAG audits to cover all social spending, including cash spent by local civic bodies, to ensure that every rupee is tracked to the point where services are actually delivered.

A larger possibility would be to include a social audit component, along with the financial tracking, to give citizens a handle on how local funds are spent.

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