Kerala Assembly passes resolution against CAG report

The Kerala Assembly on Friday passed a resolution against the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report despite strong opposition from the Congress-led UDF over removing parts of the report tabled in the House containing adverse references on the KIIFB.

The UDF and the lone BJP MLA opposed the resolution, saying it was against constitutional values.

In a detailed ruling later, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan said the CAG report containing certain adverse references on the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), will be sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after rejecting the pages containing the said references.

The Speaker said any decision taken by the House is also applicable to the committeesformed by the Assembly.

Even though the resolution was passed witha voice vote, Congress legislator V D Satheeshan, who is also the chairman of the PAC, opposed the move saying the House cannot change the report which was signed by the Governor.

“Based on the detailed discussion, the House passed a resolution calling for the rejection of the reference in pages 41 to 43 of the CAG Report, prepared without following the procedure..,” the Speaker said.

He said “the Chair” was not going into the merits of the references in the CAG report and the resolution was against the procedure of forming the references and not against the audit report.

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“The rejection of certain paragraphs which were prepared without following due procedure does not mean that the audit itself was rejected.The government has taken an extraordinary stand in an extraordinary situation,” the Speaker said.

Moving the resolution earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said certain changes in the final report was made by the CAG without hearing the departments concerned and it may affect the “checks and balances” between the executive and the legislature.

The resolution was passed with a voice vote.

Opposing the move,Satheeshan said:”How can a state legislature remove certain parts from a report signed by the Governor? If it becomes a precedent, other states will also follow suit.This currently creates a constitutional crisis.”

The resolution sought to “reject the remarks” regarding KIIFB from Page 41 to 43 of the state financial audit report of the CAG.

“The report was prepared without consulting the government. The CAG findings which claimed that the KIIFB has taken off-budget loans and that the burden on the government was not contingent liability are baseless,” Vijayan said.

The resolution also marked the CAG report as a clear violation of “professional approach and political neutrality”.

The state finance audit report of CAG for the financial year 2018-19 was tabled in the assembly on January 19.

Vijayan said CAG, a constitutional body, as part of its duty was supposed to prepare a draft report after seeking the suggestions of the departments concerned.

He added that as usual practice, the final report is submitted after considering these suggestions.

“Here, there are certain references in the final report which was not there in the draft report.In short, natural justice has been denied to the concerned department.It’s essential as part of natural justice to hear the other side.If it’s violated, then it shakes the foundation of the CAG report itself,” Vijayan said.

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Opposing the resolution, Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala said the move will set a bad precedent.

Satheeshan said the resolution was unprecedented.

“The CAG had earlier submitted a report in Parliament criticising the Modi government. But there was no resolution against it.This is an attempt to destroy a constitutionalbody and encroachment over its authority,” Satheeshan said.

The lone BJP member in the Assembly, O Rajagopal also opposed the resolution and said it was against constitutional values and was treating a constitutional body as an enemy.

The resolution also marked the CAG report as a clear violation of “professional approach and political neutrality”.

In the recent report, CAG had said the off-budget borrowings through KIIFB, which mobilises funds for infrastructure development from outside the state revenue, were not in accordance with Article 293(1) of the Constitution and “bypasses the limits set on Government borrowings”.

“These borrowings are not taken into the disclosure statements in the budget documents or in the accounts and hence such borrowings do not have legislative approval,” it stated.

The last and the 22nd session of the 14th Kerala Legislative Assembly concluded on Friday, with assembly elections likely in April-May.

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