DailyPost 1936

Even in peacetime, getting data of your choice pertaining to development, to prove your point is the standard modus operandi of every political leader primarily, then the bureaucrat and at times the political commentator too. They have decided that the data has factual value only till it can be used to satisfy their narrative. Rest of the data is useless. It can also happen that the same person, party or organization can end up making / claiming a different narrative depending on the requirement of that particular day. You can also pick up data which might be old or from questionable sources and areas which cannot be compared. In democracy, the electoral and political slugfest is on the fulcrum of the data pertaining to development. Many a times that data pertains only of the expenditure made and not the actual creation and more importantly, its impact.

Undeniably, with all the audit mechanisms at our command, the direction of the audit is aimed at financial audit. The physical and performance come a distant second and third. Finally, when things are at the highest levels of decision making, it is the financial data which turns the table on one side or the other. The direct connection between the development parameters and its achievement has to be created through the audit mode. It might not be very simple, but is certainly doable given the nature of government book keeping and documentation. Once this connection has been successfully established, they can get into the representative sample model, of at least ten percent of physical audit and might be even a smaller percentage for performance / impact audit.

For our portion of the Sustainable Development Goals to the Human Development Index, the developmental ecosystem needs be intricately connected to each other to finally churn cross validated results. The nature of the cross connection has to be decided and should have the consensus of powers that be, inclusive of the political parties, who have their own figures for everything. They are in a permanent manthan of facts /data of the last 75 years, inclusive of hearsay to buttress their point. Based on this cross connect, the final developmental parameters should be decided. The audit would and should deliver with clarity using robust audit and statistical models. This intricate audit exercise can be mandated to be performed by an agency which can be named  National Development Audit Agency.

To provide fully validated data on all parameters / details of development, as agreed upon, and at all levels would be the mandated task of this agency. The modalities to reach to this set of validated data would also be laid threadbare. This would be the one, only and the final set of data on the development parameters discussed and agreed upon. Everybody would rely on the same set of data and quoting from any other source would be illegal. It would be Aadhar of Indian development. The periodicity would be decided as well as the purposes for which it can be used. The reckless politician would feel completely tied down, because it is the same data for all, how much rhetoric can he add to it. This would be a safe level playing, where nobody, mainly the electorate, will get saved from getting misused. The National Development Audit Agency should be a constitutionally mandated body.


Sanjay Sahay

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