Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) is the guardian or care-taker of the national purse. He is appointed by the President of India for a tenure of 6 years.
The role, function and duties of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) are elaborated by an act of the Parliament passed in 1971.
Articles 148 to 151 of the Indian constitution creates and regulates the office of Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Dr. D.D. Basu considers the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General as “pivotal” to the control of entire financial system of the country. Dr. Ambedkar felt that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India shall be the most important officer under the constitution of India.
The constitution has instituted the British system of responsible government in India. The substance of responsibility is that the executive i.e. the Prime Minister and the Cabinet remains answerable for all their activities to the popularly elected chamber of the legislature. The responsibility becomes empty unless financial activities of the government are subject to parliamentary scrutiny. For this it is imperative that there should be an independent authority to examine and scrutinize the financial transactions of the government. With this object in view, the Government of India Act of 1935, made the Auditor General of India irremovable except “in like manner and on like grounds as a judge of the Federal Court.” The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General is an adaptation of the office of the Auditor General under the Act of 1935.
The constitution makes the Comptroller and Auditor General the guardian of the public purse. His primary duty is to see that neither the union government nor the government of any state spends any money from the consolidated fund without legislative appropriation. Since he is the impartial head of the audit and accounts system of India, it is essential that he should be independent of executive control.
To secure this independence, it has been provided that though appointed by the President; he does not hold office during the pleasure of the President like other officers of the union government. He may be removed from office through a process of impeachment. His salary and allowances cannot be varied to his disadvantage during his tenure of service.
He is appointed for a term of six years. His salary is equal to that of a Supreme Court Judge. He enjoys the rank of a secretary to the government of India. The salary and allowances of the Comptroller and Auditor General together with those of his staff are charged on the revenue of India and are non-votable in the Parliament.
The role and duties of the Comptroller and Auditor General are elaborated by an act of the Parliament passed in 1971. An amendment of this act in 1976 has relieved him from preparing the accounts of the government.
- The Comptroller and Auditor General audit the account of the union government and report to the President. The annual report relating to the accounts of the Central Government is submitted to the President. The President lay the report before both the Houses of the Parliament for consideration.
- It is the duty of the CAG to ensure that proper approval of the Parliament has been taken prior to spending the public money from the Consolidated Fund of India. He reports on all expenditures from the Consolidated Fund as well as from the Contingency Fund.
- He also audits and reports on the trade and manufacture by government departments. Accounts of Public Corporations are also audited by him.
The functioning of the Comptroller and Auditor General in India is exposed to several criticisms. In India the emphasis is almost exclusively on audit rather than on control of expenditures. In England, the government departments require authorization from the Comptroller. Thus whenever money is withdrawn for expenditure, the Comptroller is satisfied that there is legal authority for the expenditure. In India, the Comptroller and Auditor General comes into the picture only at the audit stage i.e. after the expenditures have already been made. Some critics also question the wisdom of commenting on extravagance of the government by the Comptroller and Auditor General.