Sigh. Less than a month after the nationwide India bandh, the Indian government and its lack of accountability has again got me riled up enough to write a blog post about it.
Normally, try to overlook the goings-on of the government. After all, I can’t change it. So I might as well accept it. However, this time the issue is closer to my heart. Over a year ago, Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) submitted a report on the preparedness for the Commonwealth Games to the government. Not surprisingly, the report found that the government’s preparations for the Games were way off target. What is surprising, is that the report was “buried” by government and not placed in the Parliament.
I just find this completely unfathomable. How can the report not be tabled in Parliament? I’ve mentioned that I used to work in the accounting field in the government back in Australia. What I’ve never disclosed is where I used to work. It was actually at the Auditor-General’s Office — the Australian equivalent of the Indian CAG.
I also spent some time working at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee — the Parliamentary committee that is responsible for reviewing and following up government budgetary initiatives, and the reports of the Auditor General. (I don’t expect that many of you will be interested in such a dry subject, but I wrote a substantial amount of this Report on the 1998-99 Budget Estimates).
Both in India and Australia, the Auditor General reports directly to the Parliament, and the public. The government is legally required to place Auditor General’s reports in the Parliament. Yet, somehow, this particular report on the Commonwealth Games, full of damning results, managed to miss its tabling deadline. It was to be tabled during the budget session that ended in early August 2009. But, it never happened. What I’m astonished about is how could it not happen? What exactly is going on in the Indian government that allows it to get away with not tabling a report in the Parliament? This is no minor matter. How does the government manage to avoid accountability like this?
Now, it seems that a miracle will be required for the construction works to be completed in time for the Games. Allegations of corruption are all over the media. One swimmer has already been hurt during a test event, due to sub-standard material and poor workmanship. And officials have stated that safety certificates for many of the new Games buildings have been faked.
The Commonwealth Games is a unique opportunity for India to showcase herself to the world, and dispel common perceptions of poverty (Slumdog Millionaire). Unfortunately, this world is being shown a lot of things, and they’re not positive. Apart from the obvious lack of accountability, I find it upsetting because so much potential is going to waste, again because of India’s politicians who are more interested in what’s in it for themselves rather than their country.