CAG adds to UPA woes with publicity questions
By Cithara Paul - NEW DELHI
Published: 24th Jun 2012 10:53:09 AM
The UPA government’s CAG troubles may have only just begun. Spreading its wings to new areas of auditing in government departments, the CAG has sought explanations regarding the publicity campaigns carried out ever since the UPA II came to power. In a letter sent to all Union ministries and departments last week, the CAG has asked them to furnish details of the funds, and their utilisation on publicity and advertisements in print and electronic media and outdoor publicity during the last three years.
In his letter, the Director General, Auditing (Central Expenditure), has also asked Central ministries to explain the reasons for taking up any particular publicity campaign and issuing government advertisements from time to time. “The letter has really rattled all the ministries as all of them give out advertisements for reasons which cannot be justified officially. Most of the time advertisements are released under political compulsion without any solid reasons and given to agencies close to powers ignoring rules and regulations. How will all these be explained to CAG?’’ said one source from the government. The ministries will also have to explain whether their campaigns were run through approved or empanelled agencies or by a non- Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) agency. And this is another cause of concern for the Government and ministers as the involvement of DAVP is a must in releasing government publicity campaigns and advertisements. But very often this rule is flouted by the ministries.
“Many a times when any department face media fury on some scandal etc, normally it is seen that the concerned department goes in publicity overdrive in an attempt to negate the adverse publicity ignoring the prescribed norms of the DAVP, etc,” said the source.
The letter, sent last week, has further said that the requisite information must be furnished as soon as possible as the CAG wants to start the audit on the subject soon. “But the ministries are yet to muster enough courage to respond to the CAG as it would be nothing short of stirring a hornet’s nest,” said the source.
It is for the first time that CAG has sought details regarding the publicity drives of the Union Government though it had done the same with state governments. For instance, it had taken objection to the expenditure of `28.66 crore incurred by the VS Achuthanandan-led LDF government in Kerala in 2010-11 on media advertisements extolling the government’s achievements. The CAG had said that advertisements praising the government would basically be a direct or surrogate advertisement for the political party in power.
Interestingly, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni had early this year made a suggestion that all ministries should jointly put advertisements on days like Ambedkar Jayanti or Gandhi Jayanti rather than each ministry issuing separate advertisements. As other ministries opposed the move then itself, the ministry had approached the finance ministry to take a decision in this regard. But the proposal did not have any takers mainly due to coalition compulsions.
“If a ministry headed by a coalition party like DMK or TMC is issuing an advertisement, the minister will see to it that the face of his or her leader is there in the advertisements. But if the government decides to go for a single advertisement, this will not be possible. So there was stiff opposition from ministries headed by coalition parties,” said the source.