What we learn in NAAA!

We recently concluded the First Phase of our In-Academy Training with the first Departmental Exams conducted on the first week of July. Almost all of us have been eagerly waiting for the Departmental Exams to conclude because an exciting two months are in offer post the exams with attachements to iCISA, IIM-Ahmedabad, Himalayan Trek and iCED attachment in the pipeline. Given that the exams were looked upon with so much anxiety, it is only fair that I give you a picture of the subjects that we learn in our first semester.

There is a misconception that Indian Audit & Account Service involves a lot of accounting and needs an Officer to be very good with numbers. While these are indeed skills that are good to have, it is necessary to understand that these are not primary requirements for an IA&AS Officer. The main concern of the department is auditing the Government, while accounts and entitlements form a not so substantial part. Let me elaborate on the topics that are taught in the academy during the First Phase of the Training.

The subjects that we are taught in the first phase (until Departmental Exam – I), that usually extends from December to May/June, are

  1. Public Finance with Introductory Economics
  2. Government Accounts
  3. Commercial Accounts (Book-Keeping in Private Sector)
  4. Principles of Public Sector Auditing
  5. Public Expenditure, Revenue and Resource Management
  6. Information Systems

Public Finance with introductory Economics

This paper primarily consists of micro-economics in the first section and macro economics in the second. Since most of us come after studying for the UPSC CSE, we will be very good with the macro economics part. Usually this is enough to pass the examination. However, many of us who are interested in micro-economics also tend to learn this subject for the sake of it. In our year this subject is handled by none other than our Director-General himself and hence people sort of study it out of fear too. Needless to say it is a very interesting subject.

Government Accounts

Accounting in the government is very different from the way it is carried out elsewhere. Government Accounts is a subject that you usually don’t encounter unless you are in the government set-up or involved in someway with the government. The topic by itself is a bit dry. However, there is no surviving in the government and especially in the Audit and Accounts service if you are not well versed with the subject. The expertise expected out of you is not one of rote learning but the ability to find out the rules and regulations at will from the books involved. It is for the same reason that the examination for the subject is conducted as open book.

Commercial Accounts ( Book Keeping in the Private Sector)

This used to be one of the most dreaded subjects by one and all batches before us, and for good reason. For officers who come from diverse backgrounds ( excluding commerce) this is an entirely new subject. And at times, commercial accountancy doesn’t seem to make sense, with its weird “Debit” and “Credit” rules ( CA’s would probably understand what I’m talking about).

However, in our year, we were particularly lucky to have got one of the best officers of IA&AS to teach this subject, Mr. Sachin Kapoor. Sachin Sir is a Chartered Accountant by training and very well versed in commercial accountancy. Initially we used to hate his teaching methods, but with time, seeing how we started to understand and appreciate the subject, we relented to his methods. In our year, this was one subject that everyone was confident they would pass without much effort.

Principles of Public Sector Auditing

PPSA is a subject that is extremely important from the Audit point of view. You get to know what Audit is, what are the kinds of audit, where the CAG derives his powers to conduct audit, what are the international bodies that are involved in this field, what kind of collaboration happens between the various Supreme Audit institutions regarding Audit of Public Sector, the Lima and Mexico declarations concerning Audit etc.

This is a paper that involves considerable mugging up. Nevertheless, it forms the backbone of your understanding of the audit process and the IA&AD.

Public Expenditure, Revenue and Resource Management

This is another subject like Government Accounts where you need to be able to find the correct rule regarding a given topic. There is not much to by-heart, but a lot to understand. Another open book exam subject.

Information Systems

Being a Computer Science Engineer, this was my favourite subject. The IA&AS is heavily relying on technology these days and is also modernising at a very rapid pace. This means that officers who are good with technology are naturally at an advantage. I was one of the best in this subject in our entire batch. We learn Excel, Access, Oracle and SQL in our first semester for practicals, while in theory it was primarily information systems security. For me, most of the topics involved were child’s play ( given my engineering and work background).

For people interested in computers this is a fantastic subject where you can explore a lot deeper.

A little bit about the exam pattern

As for our exam pattern, we have an internal test and an external exam. The internal test is conducted in-house while the external exam is conducted by the CAG headquarters. It is necessary to score 50% marks in both the exams separately.

There might arise a question in your mind as to what happens when one fails. To be confirmed in the service, you have to pass these exams. If you fail in your examination, then you are given a chance to appear in the exam again. Generally, you are given six chances to pass the written examination, which might be extended if the authorities deem it fit. If you fail to pass the exam in the given number of attempts, then you will be shown your way out of the service.

The little blue books

During the time of our last Director General, Mr. Sudhir Kumar, text books were standardised codifying the necessary topics. This has made the learning process considerably easier for the officer trainees, who earlier had to refer multiple books for learning the basics of one subject.

As in any set-up, it is the vision of those who helm the top posts that makes a difference in every seemingly simple process. A lesson for anyone who wishes to enter the government service.

What is in store now

Since the exams got over, we left Shimla for our attachment with iCISA- Noida, which is on Data Analytics, another topic that I am very keen on. The attachment was a fun experience, about which I’ll elaborate in my next post.