CAG Vinod Rai at Moneylife Foundation: “Our report on VVIP helicopter deal will be out soon”
At Moneylife Foundation’s 3rd anniversary event, CAG Vinod Rai referred to the ruling class as ‘typical bullies’, while answering questions on the recently uncovered VVIP helicopter purchase scandal, the UID or Aadhaar scheme, the Commonwealth Games and his political ambitions
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India Vinod Rai, after delivering a powerful and inspirational speech at Moneylife Foundation’s 3rd anniversary replied to some questions from the audience. Despite time constraints, the CAG tried to give answers to most of the questions. Here are the excerpts…
Q) Citizens’ groups often lose battles against public institutions because the government says it has the mandate to do certain things, without looking into the needs of the people. But people don’t back the citizens’ groups up. How can these groups continue without the people on their side?
Vinod Rai: I’m totally unable to answer your question, sure. Until now, the minority, which is the political class, is exercising its mandate. It is winning because it is more aggressive and articulate. But the citizens have to be tenacious. Once, twice, thrice, four times, as long as it takes. Those with the mandate are typical bullies. They bark and you recoil. If you bark back and bite, that’s when you’ll succeed.
Q) When will you have a Twitter account?
Vinod Rai: I’m sorry, but I’m totally ignorant of technology. But a friend has been kind enough to educate me. Maybe I’ll come online shortly. But I don’t know how to define that ‘shortly’.
Q) Has the CAG been looking at the UID or Aadhaar scheme, which currently appears to become a scam?
Vinod Rai: Well, that’s your opinion. We haven’t yet looked into it yet, no. But we’ll certainly be looking at Aadhaar at an appropriate time.
Q) I’ve heard that the Ministry of Defense (MoD) is not within the purview of the CAG. Is this true?
Vinod Rai: We do audit the MoD. We’ve done this, you don’t worry. We’re looking into it, the report will be out shortly. What needs to be exposed will be exposed.
Q) TN Seshan changed the Election Commissioner’s (EC) office. You’ve changed the CAG. But the EC’s office is no longer what it used to be. Hopefully, this will not happen to the CAG office. We need continuous good leadership.
Vinod Rai: I don’t share the view that the EC has declined. EC is a potent body. You and I aren’t scared, but those who do seek election are scared. Another thing, I can assure you that the government, if they did make a mistake appointing me as CAG, will make the right choice next time. But don’t you worry; the CAG isn’t just one person. The strength is in the large organisation I head. And it is empowered by a 24x7 media—that is often on overdrive. That is the force multiplier.
Q) Isn’t the CAG allowed to audit at the policy-making level? Why so much was invested in, for example, the Commonwealth Games? Couldn’t we have spent that money to build sports facilities in each district?
Vinod Rai: Public policy is audited. Before the policy is formulated, we have financial advisors. But the CAG doesn’t do that. We come in post the event. How good this audit is we don’t know but the policy is certainly there. The Commonwealth Games, there was debate in Parliament on this question. Some felt the money should be spent to create infrastructure, others thought it should be spent at the district level. It’s a difficult choice. But the CAG’s job is only to check if the money was spent for the purpose it was allocated for.
Q) Could you give us some facts contained in the report on the VVIP helicopter purchase scandal?
Vinod Rai: (Laughs) I know it’s being looked into, but I can’t comment now.
Q) In your report on the coal scam, why wasn’t a discounting factor used over 25 years? This would have brought down the figure to Rs60,000 crore from Rs1.86 lakh crore. Also, some of the mines were allocated to government institutions, so why should we be bothered by that allocation?
Vinod Rai: Firstly, the report was only on allocations to the private sector. Secondly, we’ve explained why we did not use a discounting factor in the report. It was because we only made our calculations on present losses. You should read the report. It’s 700 pages and makes for fine reading. Even Rs60,000 crore is not a small amount.
Q) Could you mention three ways to reduce corruption?
Vinod Rai: No, I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to make such recommendations.
Q) Certain people say you have political ambitions and that you are supported by the BJP. Is any of this true? What’s your retirement plan?
Vinod Rai: Firstly, what’s wrong with having political ambitions? But I don’t have any retirement plan. If you have something to offer me, do let me know.