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CAG audit report on Assam’s NRC

  • Published
    28th Dec, 2022
Context

The CAG in its ‘logistical arrangements for NRC update project in Assam’, tabled before the parliament has flagged serious irregularities.

What is the NRC exercise?

  • Origin: National Register of Citizens (NRC) was first created in 1951 in Assam to identify those born in India and migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
  • Assam Exercise: In 2013, the Supreme Court issued directions to the Centre and State to initiate an exercise in Assam to update the 1951 register.
    • The first draft was released in 2018.
    • The final list, published in 2019, included those who could establish their Indian citizenship.
  • Condition: By being residents or descendants of people living in Assam before March 25, 1971.
  • Excluded Persons: 19.06 lakh people out of 3.3 crore applicants were excluded due to a lack of adequate documents to prove their citizenship.
  • Current Status: It has been three years since then and the process is on pause as the Registrar General of India (RGI) is yet to notify the final list.

What are the CAG’s concerns?

  • Increased Cost: In the process of update-by NRC, there was a five-fold increase by March 2022. The initial deadline for completion was February 2015.
  • Irregularities in fund utilization: The test check of records revealed irregularities in the utilization of funds including “excess and inadmissible payment to vendors”.
  • Wage payments: CAG found that the amount of wages paid to the outsourced staff was 45.59%-64.27% less than what was approved by the NRC coordination committee.
    • It allowed the undue benefit of Rs.155.83 crores to the system integrator beyond the 10% “reasonable profit margin”.
  • Absence of secure software: Secure and reliable software was required for the SC-directed exercise, but as many as 215 software utilities were added haphazardly to the core software.
    • This was done without following the due process of software development and vendor selection via tendering.
    • There might be a risk of “data tampering" in the NRC for Assam.
  • Data is not error-free: CAG stated that the intended objective of preparing a valid and error-free NRC was not met despite incurring the excess expenditure.

What has the CAG recommended?

  • Penal measures against Wipro Limited: The company has been found violating the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act and for paying data operators less than minimum wages.
  • Action against the State Coordinator of National Registration (SCNR): for excess, irregular and inadmissible payments”.
  • Fixing the accountability SCNR: The CAG also recommended fixing accountability of the SCNR as the principal employer for “not ensuring compliance with the Minimum Wage Act”.

About the Comptroller and Auditor General:

  • Constitutional Body: Article 148 provides for an independent office of the CAG. It is the supreme audit institution of India.
  • Other Provisions Related to CAG include:
  • Articles 149-151 (Duties & Powers, Form of Accounts of the Union and the States, and Audit Reports)
  • Article 279 (calculation of net proceeds, etc.)
  • Not eligible for further office, either under the Government of India or of any state, after he ceases to hold his office.
  • Salary and other service conditions are determined by the Parliament.
  • No minister can represent the CAG in Parliament.
  • The administrative expenses of the office of the CAG, including all salaries, allowances, and pensions of persons serving in that office are charged to the Consolidated Fund of India.
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