Auditing The Auditors
The Indian Accounts & Audit Service (IAAS) is a branch of the Indian civil services. Members of the IAAS who work for the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) can take credit for unearthing many deficiencies in government accounting and, indeed, occasional, blockbuster scams like the 2010 Common Wealth Games scandal.
It would thus flow that IAAS officers - whose job includes (broadly) understanding of accounting, balance sheets, tax laws and assessing the financial health of corporations - have a good sense of numbers. Or do they?
The SPR Foundation has been poring over the mandatory filings of immovable assets (real estate) by very senior IAAS officers. Many properties are listed without any value attached. In many cases, the values are plain off. In some cases, to be fair, there are ‘consensus' values. The answer thus, is that there is a discomfort with numbers, at least when it comes to the small stuff.
A Flowery Name
We examined (like we did for the assets of Indian Foreign Service officials a few weeks ago) the common filings for an apartment complex in Noida in India's capital city (among other properties in New Delhi) where many IAAS officers have jointly invested in. The IAAS Officers Housing Society as it is referred to goes by the flowery name of Yarrows, also the name of the service's training academy in the mountain town of Shimla. We've mentioned a few designations though not everywhere. Note that one official has a apartment with a value much higher (Rs 75 lakh) than anyone else on the list. So who is right? There are others who can either be extremely wary or extremely generous with information when it comes to declaring their assets. These properties lie elsewhere in New Delhi.
The same Yarrows apartments seem to be aspiring for even higher rates when they go on sale...as this post from online property broking firm www.99acres.com suggests.
Our concerns are manifold. These officials represent India’s premier audit agency. They oversee the audit of government accounts as well as public sector organisations. Together, they look at balance sheets and P&L statements running into hundreds of billions of dollars. They cannot be seen to be arbitrary when it comes to assessing the value of their own assets, or worse, appearing like they are trying to conceal the unconcealable.