Arvind Kejriwal fumes as CAG pulls up Delhi government over ads, finances

New delhi: The CAG has put the AAP government in the dock over advertising its first year “achievements” almost entirely outside the national capital and also putting out “non-verifiable” contents, which invited a sharp reaction from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The CM lashed out at Shashi Kant Sharma, the Comptroller and Auditor General, accusing him of doing “politics” and went on to suggest that the top auditor might be doing this “out of compulsion” to save his job.

In the reports, which were tabled in the Delhi Assembly today, the CAG pointed out that in its first year, the AAP government spent Rs 29 crore on advertisements outside Delhi, as part of one particular campaign, which was “beyond” its responsibility.

The report also observed that advertisements worth Rs 24 crore were in violation of financial propriety and Supreme Court regulations.

“We all know why the CAG is doing this. I think the CAG is doing this out of compulsion. The CAG should know that if it finds our mistakes, we will accept it but politics should be left to politicians,” Kejriwal told reporters outside the Assembly.

Commenting on the state finances, the audit watchdog said the Delhi government had made a total provision of Rs 42,809.39 crore in its 2015-16 Budget and incurred an expenditure of 35,434.86 crore, most of which was spent in a rush during the last quarter of the fiscal.

It resulted in savings of Rs 7,374.53 crore (17.23 per cent), which the CAG said, indicates that estimates were not prepared after adequate scrutiny of the projects and schemes.

The flurry of spendings in the last quarter was described as a “breach of financial propriety”, which the CAG said, should be avoided. The audit pointed out several instances where the government’s work was projected as the party’s achievements using its poll symbol “broom” and Kejriwal’s name.

Among the “non-verifiable” content in the ads, the CAG referred to the ones on claims that the government had saved money in constructing flyovers and on building dispensaries.

“On test check of records, audit observed that expenditure of Rs 24.29 crore was incurred on advertisements and publicity campaigns that were not in conformity with the generally accepted principles of financial propriety or the guidelines on content regulation approved by the Supreme Court.

“Over 85 per cent of expenditure of Rs 33.40 crore incurred in one specific publicity campaign pertained to advertisements released outside Delhi which was beyond the responsibility of the Delhi government. There was no prior exercise to identify target audiences or necessary visibility,” it said.

The CAG also noted while the agency “Shabdarth” was established in 2015 to economize expenditure on ads but the objective has not been achieved.

Kejriwal said while CAG earlier used to unearth scams like the 2G and irregularities in power companies, it was resorting to “politics” now.

“We had requested the CAG to conduct a 10-year audit of the Delhi Commission for Women, but instead of accepting our request, the CAG only did two-year audit of the DCW, since Swati Maliwal took charge.

“What is the friendship between the CAG and (former Delhi CM) Sheila Dikshit? What is the friendship between the CAG and the BJP? The CAG should stop doing politics and focus on auditing,” Kejriwal added.

He also wondered whether there was any legal bar on a state government advertising its work in other states and asserted his government will continue putting out such ads.

“We have ensured ease of doing business in Delhi. Can’t we attract businessmen from Mumbai through advertisements because we have made business easy here? You can see advertisements of Haryana across Delhi and also those of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav,” he said.

The CAG had an observation on this as well as the Delhi government had the same response when the findings were shared with it for its version.

“The reply is not tenable as the advertorials, TV clips and jingles depicted the achievements of the Delhi government as that of a political party and the ads were not linked to the government’s constitutional and legal obligations towards the citizenry of Delhi,” the CAG observed.

Kejriwal had earlier written to the CAG welcoming an audit of its advertisements while demanding similar auditing be done on other state governments so that the scale can be compared.

The Kejriwal government had allotted a whopping Rs 522 crore for advertisement and publicity in 2015-16 budget, which was later revised to Rs 134 crore.

In the 2017-18 Budget, Rs 198 crore has been set aside for publicity while 2016-17 budgetary allocation under the head was Rs 207 crore, which has been revised to Rs 181 crore.