In addition to conducting financial audits, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), VINOD RAI, has decided to conduct a social and environmental audit. He spoke to JYOTIKA SOOD about his department's decision to audit pollution of drinking water sources in the country
On reasons for conducting social audit
Social audit means involving people in an audit process. It provides a platform to the public to voice their grievances. We wanted to reach out to the common man as many problems affecting them go unheard. A social audit would give them a platform.
On people's response
In March, we advertised in newspapers asking people to share their opinions and problems through emails, letters or fax.
We received about 500 responses in a month. We received complaints about non-functional sewage treatment plants (STPs), diversion of funds allocated for various water projects, pilferages in government system and authorities not giving enough priority to projects which people think are important.
On choosing to audit drinking water sources
Like other departments, even CAG office has environmental concerns. We chose water over air to begin with and restricted ourselves to just drinking water which has become an important issue these days.
On process for screening complaints received
CAG office deals with formal audit and we have restricted manpower and expertise. We would take help of non-profits and community leaders like Rajinder Singh who are stake holders in the field of water and can help understand the problems in a better way.
However, it is not compulsory for people to send negative reports only. We are also looking forward to positive feedback. For example, if a STP is running well in a city, we would like to study its functions and find out what makes it a success and replicate it in other cities and towns across the country.
On environmental audits
While working on environmental audits, we look at compliance of laws. That is, we look into the working of the government institutions like municipalities and see how well have they complied with the laws. Secondly, every environmental project involves money. When we audit, we see how and where the funds have been spent and check the efficiency of the project against performance targets.
On what the audit expects to achieve
It would help to inculcate vigilance and encourage people to keep an eye on how public money is spent. It would also sensitize the public about environment and water related issues.
The report will take at least one year. We plan to present the first report before Parliament in Budget 2010-11.
People can send their views anytime. Our email id is email@example.com and postal address is:-
Office of the Principal Director of Audit,
IP Estate, New Delhi 110002.
Our fax number is 011-23702353.
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