Vinod Rai : The man who exposed the major scams in India
The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India was established under the Indian Constitution to audit all the expenditure of the Government of India and the State Governments. Previously headed by Vinod Rai (who retired few days back), a man of tough integrity, this body has played a major role in exposing some of the biggest scams in the past few years including the 2G Spectrum Scam, the Commonwealth Game Scam and the Coal mining Scam. The CAG is appointed by the President of India after a recommendation by the Prime Minister. The office of CAG carries out independent investigation and is answerable only to the Parliament. It is a body that is not much known to the people but is very influential. In fact it is an organization that is feared by many politicians and bureaucrats of this country.
Ever since Vinod Rai took office in 2008, he was been determined to expose corruption in the government without yielding to any political pressure from the ruling party. In fact it was because of him that the office of CAG turned from an inert body to people’s watchdog. He did give the UPA a very tough time and was asked by the political leaders to keep a check on the reports being published by the CAG. The three major scams exposed under his leadership are:
1) 2G Spectrum Scam: It involved politicians and government officials illegally undercharging the telecom companies in India for frequency allocation licenses. The estimated value of loss is `1.76 lakh crores (although the exact amount is undisputed). The prime accused was A Raja (then Minister of Communication and IT) who favoured some companies at the expense of public wealth. Such big was the scam that Time listed it at number two in “Top 10 Abuses of Power.”
2) Commonwealth Game Scam: After the CWG concluded in 2010, 53 cases of corruption were examined by Central Vigilance Commission against the Organizing Committee. The main accuses was the CWG Organizing Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi. The official figure of estimated loss is around ` 40,000 crores.
3) Coal Allocation Scam: The CAG accused the Government of India for allocating coal blocks inefficiently during 2004-2009. The Government had the option of allocating coal block through competitive bidding but did not do so. As a result the Public Sector Enterprises and private firms paid much less than they might have (around one-twentieth of the market value of coal). The amount that the government could have gained is estimated to be around ` 1.85 lakh crores.
With such a massive amount of public money and some of the big names in Indian politics involved it isn’t surprising that the higher authority made an effort to stop him. He never let the threats or warnings bother him and publicly slammed the government for its incompetency. He dared to challenge the wrongdoings of the government and honestly did what he was supposed to do. At a speech in Harvard Kennedy School he openly accused the government of crony capitalism.
Here is an excerpt from his speech at the Harvard Kennedy School:
“What we have been introspecting is whether our constitutionally mandated responsibility ends the moment we have placed our Reports in the Parliament or is it in any way beyond this mechanical function that we perform. To get an answer to this query repeatedly arising in our minds, we also looked at the constitutional position of Supreme Audit Institutions in certain other parliamentary democracies. This was at the time, when we were being advised by the highest in the land, not to exceed our mandate which they believe to be mere accountants and to conduct mechanical audit of government’s expenditure. We were being advised not to get into the realm of auditing policy formulation. The question that continues to repeatedly arise in our minds is whether the Parliament, and in fact, the public at large, expect us to be mere accountants and do arithmetic over government expenditure? If it was so, then why should constitutions worldwide – appoint such high dignitaries as Auditors General and give them independence, freedom from the executive and accord them a constitutional position. Evidently what was envisioned in the constitution was more than expecting them to be mere accountants.”
Urging the young students to become leaders in social welfare he further said:
“The challenge is to be a change agent. Being a change agent is not all that difficult. Each one of us should have certain non-negotiable principles governing our lives. The biggest challenge facing you is to constantly change yourself without changing the core principles in you.”