Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: ''Centennial Year of Public Accounts Committee"_00.1
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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: ‘’Centennial Year of Public Accounts Committee”

Context

Recently, the President released a special souvenir depicting the 100 glorious years of PAC’s journey and 67 special articles including 15 from Commonwealth countries. Mr Kovind also inaugurated an exhibition depicting the milestone moments of PAC from 1921 to 2021.

Introduction

  • The Committee system assumes great importance in Parliamentary democracy.
  • Parliamentary democracy would be incomplete without Parliamentary committees, and scrutiny of public accounts by the people’s representatives plays an important role in ensuring accountability, which is central to governance.
  • Administrative accountability to the legislature becomes the sine qua non of such a parliamentary system.
  • The check that Parliament exercises over the executive stems from the basic principle that Parliament embodies the will of the people and it must, therefore, be able to supervise the manner in which public policy laid down by Parliament is carried out.
  • However, the phenomenal proliferation of governmental activities has made the task of legislatures very complex and diversified.
  • By its very nature, Parliament, as a body cannot have effective control over the government and the whole gamut of its activities.
  • Administrative accountability to the legislature through Committees has been the hallmark of our political system.
  • The Committee on Public Accounts enjoys the place of pride in our Committee System.

About PAC

  • The Committee on Public Accounts is the oldest Parliamentary Committee and was first constituted in 1921.
  • The Committee consists of 22 Members, 15 Members are elected by Lok Sabha and 7 Members of the Rajya Sabha are associated with it.
  • The Speaker is empowered to appoint the Chairman of the Committee from amongst its Members.
  • The Committee on Public Accounts is constituted by Parliament each year for examination of accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by Parliament for the expenditure of Government of India, the annual Finance Accounts of Government of India, and such other accounts laid before Parliament as the Committee may deem fit such as accounts of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies (except those of Public Undertakings and Government Companies which come under the purview of the Committee on Public Undertakings.

About the other two Financial Committees of Parliament

  • The Committee on Estimates
    • It constituted for the first time in 1950, is a Parliamentary Committee consisting of 30 members, elected every year by the Lok Sabha from amongst its Members.
    • The Chairperson of the Committee is appointed by the Speaker from amongst its members.
    • A Minister cannot be elected as a member of the Committee and if a member after selection to the Committee is appointed a Minister, the member ceases to be a Member of the Committee from the date of such appointment.
    • The term of office of the Committee is one year.
    • Functions:
      1. to report what economies, improvements in organisation, efficiency or administrative reform, consistent with the policy underlying the estimates may be effected;
      2. to suggest alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency and economy in administration;
      3. to examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of the policy implied in the estimates; and
      4. to suggest the form in which the estimates shall be presented to Parliament
      5. The Committee does not exercise its functions in relation to such Public Undertakings as are allotted to the Committee on Public Undertakings by the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha or by the Speaker.
  • The Committee on Public Undertakings
    • It is a Parliamentary Committee consisting of 22 members, fifteen of whom are elected by the Lok Sabha every year from amongst its members according to the principle of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote and seven Members to be nominated by Rajya Sabha for being associated with the Committee.
    • The Chairman is appointed by the Speaker from amongst the Members of the Committee.
    • A Minister is not eligible to become a Member of the Committee.
    • If a Member after his election to the Committee is appointed a Minister, he ceases to be a Member of the Committee from the date of such appointment.
    • The term of the Committee does not exceed one year.
    •  Functions:
      1. to examine the reports and accounts of Public Undertakings specified in the Fourth Schedule to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
      2. to examine the reports, if any, of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on the Public Undertakings.
      3. to examine, in the context of the autonomy and efficiency of the Public Undertakings whether the affairs of the Public Undertakings are being managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices; and
      4. to exercise such other functions vested in the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee in relation to the Public Undertakings as are not covered by clauses (a), (b) and (c) above and as may be allotted to the Committee by the Speaker from time to time.

Brief History of the PAC

  • The PAC was formed when the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms were implemented in 1921.
  • The panel used to have only 15 members, all from the Lower House.
  • Later, seven members from the Upper House were included.
  • The body got more teeth post-Independence, especially after 1967 when it was decided that a Lok Sabha MP from the opposition benches will head it.

Major Functions of the Public Accounts Committee

The Committee on Public Accounts scrutinizes the Appropriation Accounts of the Government of India and the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India thereon.  While doing so, it is the duty of the Committee to satisfy itself:-

  1. that the money shown in the accounts as having been disbursed were legally available for, and applicable to, the service or purpose to which have been applied or charged;
  2. that the expenditure conforms to the authority which governs it; and
  3. that every re-appropriation has been made in accordance with the provisions made on this behalf under rules framed by the competent authority.
    It is also the duty of the PAC:-
  1. to examine the statement of accounts showing the income and expenditure of State Corporations, trading and manufacturing schemes, concerns and projects together with the balance sheets and statements of profit and loss accounts which the President may have required to be prepared or are prepared under the provisions of statutory rules regulating the financing of a particular corporation trading or manufacturing scheme or concern or project and the report of the C&AG thereon;
  2. to examine the statement of accounts showing the income and expenditure of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, the audit of which may be conducted by the C&AG of India either under the directions of the President or by a statute of Parliament; and
  3. to consider the report of the C&AG in cases where the President may have required him to conduct an audit of any receipts and to examine the accounts of stores and stocks.

 The Importance of Parliamentary Committees

  • Parliamentary Committees are smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties and they function throughout the year.
  • These smaller groups of MPs study and deliberate on a range of subject matters, Bills, and budgets of all the ministries.
  • Since Committees meet throughout the year, they help make up for this lack of time available on the floor of the House.
  • Parliament deliberates on matters that are complex and therefore needs technical expertise to understand such matters better.  Committees help with this by providing a forum where members can engage with domain experts and government officials during the course of their studies.

Reforms needed in Public Accounts Committee

  • PAC may be redesignated as Public Accounts and Audit Committee given the fact that audit review is also its core function.
  • It should directly interact with people and take inputs from them. The more they will interact with people, the more effective and meaningful their recommendations will be.
  • Since PAC has to examine the effectiveness of resource use in terms of socio-economic outcomes, it may be in order for the committee to examine the issue of balancing these two objectives for wider consideration.
  • There should be a Committee of Chairpersons of PACs, which could have a comprehensive discussion on the working of the PACs.
  • There should be one common platform for PACs of Parliament and state legislatures. This will ensure better coordination and greater transparency and accountability of the Executive.
  • The suggestions of this committee could be discussed among the Presiding Officers for implementation to make the PACs more accountable, transparent and beneficial to the public.

Conclusion

In a developing country like India, constructive suggestions of the PAC have not only promoted optimal use of financial resources but have also helped in improving government policies and programmes, yet a range of changes is needed in the present structure, function and working culture of the committee for coping with the present time and challenges.

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