As the government races against time to prepare for the GST roll out in July, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, currently Shashi Kant Sharma, could pose the biggest hurdle ahead of the council meet this weekend.
India Today has accessed an exclusive report of the GST council on how the council discussed the ‘power of CAG’ to call for information for audit during its sixth meeting in December last year.
The CAG’s office wants the GST council to empower the auditor to call for ‘any information’ for auditing GST receipts. The constitutional functionary has contended that section 16 of CAG’s DPC (Duties, Powers & Conditions of Service) act mandates the auditor to conduct audits of receipts of governments, giving it no discretion in the matter.
Interestingly, the finance minister Arun Jatiley-headed GST council, which has representatives from different states, was not in favour of giving the CAG the power to seek ‘any information’.
“Due to council’s objections, CAG Shashi Kant Sharma has met finance minister personally and requested him to modify the draft GST law to allow the word ‘any information’ to be sought by auditors as and when needed”, a senior official told India Today.
The reason CAG wants more powers for the auditors in the GST law is to ensure that it is legally equipped to call for additional information if needed during an audit of tax receipts.
“Its the matter of autonomy for the states which are objecting CAG’s assessment of the tax collection”, said a senior official to India Today.
Interestingly, even the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), a private firm with 49 per cent government holding, that has been tasked to provide the I-T infrastructure for GST implementation has rejected being a part of CAG audit.
Sources have told India Today that the ‘power of CAG for GST audit’ was on the agenda in last meeting of the council as well but wasn’t discussed. But with time running out, a decision on the issue is likely to be taken in the upcoming GST council meeting in Udaipur.
India Today, 14 February 2017