Is the audit report liable to be disclosed to an applicant seeking it under RTI?
The appellant referred to some audit queries and filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Indian Audit and Accountants Department seeking to know whether the said audit queries had been partly or fully dropped and the justification for the same. The Public Information Officer (PIO) denied the information claiming that the audit report was yet to be placed before the Parliament. He also claimed exemption under section 8(1)(e) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; of the RTI Act stating that the desired information was held in fiduciary capacity.
During the hearing the before Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that the audit team had noted many financial irregularities in the functioning of the Coffee Board and pointed out that if the audit inquiries had been dropped then it should be disclosed so that all the facts should come out in the public.
View of CIC
The Commission held that the Parliament and the State Legislature has the first right to see the audit report and thus the communications and correspondence exchanged between the audited entity and the AG should not be disclosed until the final audit report is placed before the Parliament or the State Legislature. The CIC observed that the disclosure of the contents of the audit report or the material which can form part of it before it is presented to the Parliament or the State Legislature, may cause a breach of privilege of the Parliament and the State Legislature hence such information was exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(c) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; of the RTI Act. The Commission further noted that once the final audit report is presented to the Parliament or the State Legislature then all the relevant documents including the audit inquiry /draft para and the reply given by the audited entity can be put in the public domain. The Commission directed the PIO to provide to the appellant the desired information as the entire body of correspondence and communications between the AG and the Coffee Board including all the Annexure and enclosure, if the respective final audit report has already been presented to the Parliament.
Citation: Mr. H Hanume Gowda v. Indian Audit and Accountants Department in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001876
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1282
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission