GUWAHATI: MP Gaurav Gogoi has written a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeking clarification regarding the discrepancies of Union Government Debt figures in the UGFA 2018-19 as highlighted by the CAG report.
As highlighted by the CAG report for the year 2018-19, there is concerning misrepresentation in Statement No.1, 2 and 14 among others, of the Union Government's Finance Accounts (UGFA), stated Gogoi in his letter.
"Under Statement 1, 'Summary of Transactions' of UGFA, key fiscal numbers such as Revenue Deficit and Fiscal Deficit are not given, and are provided via footnote instead. In Statement 2, 'Summary of Debt Position,' the main body depicts the Public Accounts Liabilities as Rs. 8,82,119 crores as on March 31, 2019. This is shown to include Small Savings and Provident Fund as Rs. 5.79.609 crores and under 'Other Obligations-Reserve Funds and Deposits as Rs 3,02,510 crores. In depicting the Public Accounts Liabilities, information of other liabilites of the Central Government apart from Small Savings and Provident Fund and Other Obligations-Reserve Funds and Deposits has been provided in a footnote, thus skewing the total Public Accounts Liabilites figure. Investment of National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) of Rs. 7,42.842 crores accumulated defict of NSSF of Rs. 1,13,652 crores and investment relating to Post Office Insurance Fund of Rs 73 402 crores have been omitted from the main body and provided via footnote This omission from the main body has severely impacted the total calculation of Public Accounts Liabilities, which sums up to Rs 18.12,015 crores as against Rs 8 82.119 crores shown in the statement. There is a difference of an alarming Rs 9.29 896 crores on inclusion of the liabilites provided via footnote," the letter stated.
Further, Gogoi underlined that, "There is a discrepancy in the depiction of external debt in the main body. As Statements 2 and 14 per of UGFA 2018-19, the External debt of the Government is depicted at a historic rate of exchange. This depiction uses an older rate of exchange to minimize and mask the actual figure. The actual External Debt, as per the current exchange rate on March 31, 2019 is given via footnote. The difference between the actual External Debt given via footnote and the External Debt provided in the main body is Rs. 2.04.478 crores, thereby, affecting the transparency of Government accounts and misleading the reader. According to the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, 2003, Central Government Debt includes external debt valued at current exchange rates. The discrepancy in UGFA 2018-29 not only violates the definition under the Act but also the objective of Indian Government Accounting Standard (IGAS) 10 which seeks to provide transparency and disclosure in the financial statements of Government for the benefit of various stake holders. Moreover, these discrepancies cumulatively have the potential to skew calculation of all figures that are calculated using Central Government Debt. For instance, the Fiscal indicator Central Government debt as percentage of GDP IS also likely to get affected by the difference.
The aforementioned inconsistencies raise pertinent concerns about the transparency and veracity of government accounts and require clarification by the Union Ministry of Finance, he added.