Before we get to the auditors, we still can't quite fathom when the last round of austerity measures announced over two years ago came to an end. Meanwhile a new cutback notification has been issued by the Government - which is as noteworthy for its wide sweep as its generality. So the usual suspects - no conferences/functions in five star hotels, reduction in foreign travel, and stoppage in buying vehicles unless it’s the armed forces. Guess what, most Government departments lease vehicles in any case.

Further, a slowdown in consultancy contracts, discipline in fiscal transfers to states, public sector undertakings and autonomous bodies. Okay, here's a question. What about Air India, whose losses mount by the day and every flying hour? Interested in the numbers? Accumulated (estimated) losses are Rs 20,320 crore ($4.5 bn) while total debt is a staggering Rs 46,950 crore ($10.4 bn). If you want to add that up, its Rs 67,270 crore ($14.9 bn). Annual revenues are around Rs 13,000 crore ($2.8 bn).

A Good Start

Now, India's federal auditor, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) is setting up an audit advisory board. Good start. And you would expect them to come from a audit or finance background. Err, not quite. Included in the list are: Dr. A.K. Shiva Kumar, Advisor, UNICEF, Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Arghyam, Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment and actor Shabana Azmi. Like we said, it’s a good start.

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