Clearing a long-running controversy and refuting Finance Minister Thomas Isaac’s claims, an RTI reply says that CAG had sent the exit meeting minutes to the finance department. The RTI enquiry was filed before the Constitutional body by a leading Malayalam news channel. During a heated debate within the Kerala Assembly regarding the CAG report on KIIFB, Thomas Isaac told MLA VD Satheesan that the AG did not send the exit meeting minutes to the finance department before preparing the final report. The CAG also clarified that the finance department did not sign and return the minutes.
The exit meeting is held between CAG and the government representatives soon after the preparation of the draft report and before filing the final version. The minutes would be sent to the state government, who should sign and return them. However, Isaac had been claiming from day one that the CAG did not send the exit minutes, which VD Satheesan had refuted in a session of the assembly.
The exit meeting was held on June 22, 2020, between the Accountant General and six members of the AGS office, and Finance Additional Secretary, KIIFB joint fund manager, and four representatives of the government. The minutes were sent to the state government on July 1, 2020, to the Finance Additional Secretary. During the debate, Isaac had challenged the opposition to present evidence to their claim that exit-meeting minutes were sent to the government.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had presented a motion to remove three pages from the CAG report, which mentions KIIFB, that wasn’t available in the draft report. Following this, a heated debate broke out within the Assembly halls on the constitutionality of such a decision and the capacity of the assembly to reject the findings of a body such as the Comptroller and Auditor General.
VD Satheesan told the assembly that the government doesn’t have the authority or the power to reject the portion in the CAG report. “The assembly shouldn’t stand with the government’s move to start such a problematic tradition. What right does the assembly have to pass such a motion, since not even the Centre would dare do such a thing? I kindly request the Speaker to dissuade the government from such an action,” he said.
Moreover, this move by the government is a very problematic trend considering how they are deep in murky, unconstitutional waters. The CAG is a constitutional body whose functions and authority are clearly outlined in various laws and acts. Moreover, a CAG report signed by the Governor of a state is presented before the Public Accounts Committee of the Assembly. The latter would allow the government to present its side to the representatives of the CAG. The constitutional body is integral to holding many governments and corporate bodies accountable.
However, Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that they would go to any length against the CAG. Moreover, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had claimed that such a move was not problematic. However, when asked if he sought legal advice from the Advocate General or the Law Secretary, Isaac merely replied that legal advice was sought. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the CM’s action was challenging the Constitution.