In the last few months, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) may have come down strongly on several Indian drug manufacturing companies for not maintaining quality, but its belief in the Indian national auditor—the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG) capability and professionalism remains steely.
Once again, the vibrant ‘India story’ resonated strongly on the global stage in Geneva on Monday. Already holding the year-long chair for the increasingly important Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the G20, India’s CAG has been voted to be the external auditor for the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, for a four-year term from 2024 to 2027.
Even more than the result of the voting, what is noteworthy here is the overwhelming size of the mandate. An overwhelming majority—114 out of total 156 votes or 73 per cent of the member countries —voted for India’s re-election.
“The overwhelming number of countries that voted for India is unprecedented in WHO's elections for an external auditor. It speaks of the recognition of India’s standing besides the reputation and belief in CAG’s professionalism, high standards, and global audit experience,” said Parveen Mehta, deputy CAG, who along with the CAG Girish Chandra Murmu and a team of delegates is in Geneva for the election and the 76th World Health Assembly.
An official release said that “CAG is already holding this position in WHO since 2019, for a four-year term from 2019 to 2023.”
“This is the second major international audit assignment for the CAG this year following his selection for the post of External Auditor (2024-2027) of International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva earlier this year in March 2023,” it added.
Besides WHO, the CAG is currently the external auditor of Food and Agriculture Organization (2020-2025), International Atomic Energy Agency (2022-2027), Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2021-2023) and Inter-Parliamentary Union (2020-2022).
In recent months, several Indian drug manufacturing companies have earned WHO’s ire due to quality control issues.
India-made cough syrup brands have reportedly claimed the lives of 66 very young children in The Gambia last year.
On October 5, 2022, the WHO issued an alert headlined ‘Substandard (contaminated) paediatric medicines identified in WHO region of Africa’ where it named several Indian companies exporting ‘substandard’ medicines.
And then again on January 11, 2023, WHO issued a product alert against India-made cough syrups that allegedly claimed the lives of 18 children in Uzbekistan.