Coincidence or convenience? Transfer of 3 IAAS officers connected to CAG

The trio in the Indian Audit & Accounts Service were moved in September: one to Kerala, another to the Rajbhasha department and the third to the legal cell

Representative image of the gate to the offices of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (photo: IANS)
Representative image of the gate to the offices of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (photo: IANS)

A.J. Prabal

Transfer of a bunch of IA & AS (Indian Audit & Accounts Service) officers, some of whom had finalised several of the 12 CAG reports embarrassing to the government — which were placed before Parliament during the monsoon session — has sparked a fresh controversy. Routine transfers or not, they have raised eyebrows.

Some of those 12 audit reports were surely embarrassing for the government. The reports had indicated irregularities, loopholes, cost escalation and possibilities of corruption in the implementation of various central government schemes.

Ayushman Bharat, run by the health ministry, and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) were among those pulled up by the Comptroller and Auditor General for not following the rules laid down and over identified "gross" irregularities.

The reports created a stir, as the present CAG, G.C. Murmu, is not only a retired IAS officer from the Gujarat cadre, he is also known to have worked closely with Narendra Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat.

Once Modi became the prime minister, Murmu was brought to New Delhi and served in both the finance ministry as well as the PMO, before being appointed the lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir. At the end of the tenure of Rajiv Mehrishi as CAG, Murmu was appointed in his place.

There were speculations that the office of the CAG was being deliberately used to embarrass select union ministers—notably, the roads and surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari.

Gadkari described the report on the NHAI and the Gurugram Expressway as erroneous. The procedure followed by the CAG’s office before finalising reports made errors rather unlikely though.

That whole controversy has been revived now by the transfer of Atoorva Sinha, who had been the principal director of audit, infrastructure, New Delhi since March 2023. Sinha was the one in charge of the CAG reports on highway projects and on the implementation of the Bharatmala Pariyojana, Phase-1. She has been moved to the post of accountant general (A&E), Kerala.

Similarly, Dattaprasad Suryakant Shirsat, director (AMG II), who was in charge of the performance audit of the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, has been relocated—as director (legal).

Ashok Sinha, who had initiated the performance audit and was posted as director general (North–Central region), has been transferred as director general (rajbhasha, ie official languages).

Too much of a coincidence?

But there are no rules governing the transfer of officials in the office of the CAG, as a former IAAS officer we contacted informed us. Any officer can be transferred anywhere at any time, on grounds of administrative convenience, he pointed out.

It is also entirely up to the CAG to decide which officer remains at what post and for how long, said the officer, who retired last year from a senior position.

However, Jairam Ramesh, MP and general secretary, in charge of communications for the Indian National Congress, has accused the government of victimising the three officers.

“They exposed massive scams in government schemes… scams across infrastructure and social schemes… documented 1400% cost inflation and tendering irregularities in the Dwarka Expressway and diversion of Rs 3,600 crore from highways projects, faulty bidding practices, and 60% cost inflation of Bharatmala scheme
Jairam Ramesh

An audit of the Ayushman Bharat scheme showed lakhs of claims made in the name of dead patients.

At least 7.5 lakh beneficiaries were linked to a single mobile number, he pointed out.

The audit report revealed corruption in insurance settlement claims too. The report, among other findings, said that lakhs of claims continued to be made against some who had been shown as ‘deceased’ in the database.

Ramesh has demanded that the transfer orders be cancelled.

The transfer orders, claimed sources, had not been posted online yet as is normally done.

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