Public Accounts Committee
In India, the parliamentary form of Government is in force, and the legislature has the power to ensure “that the appropriated money is spent economically, judiciously and for the purpose for which it was sanctioned”.
Even though the Comptroller and Auditor General of India is to audit the accounts of the government and to ensure the propriety of the money spent, yet his report is further examined by the special committee of the parliament, is known as Public Account Committee (РАС).
After independence the Constitution of India provides that, the reports of Comptroller and Auditor General of India regarding the Accounts of the Union shall be submitted to the President, who shall cause then to be laid before each house of parliament, and the parliament appoints Public Accounts Committee to scrutinise the report laid down by the president of India.
With this a number of changes were also introduced as regards the composition and working of the committee.
In 1950, the Public Accounts Committee consisted of 15 members and all of them belonged to the Lok Sabha. But in 1953, this number was increased to 22 with a view to give representation to Rajya Sabha.
Under Article 151 of the Constitution, Public Accounts and Audit Reports are to be laid before both the Houses of Parliament. It is not a Joint Committee, but a Committee of Lok Sabha with which a few members of the Rajya Sabha are associated.
All members of the Committee enjoy equal status in matter of elaboration and voting. The members from Rajya Sabha are also under the control of the Speaker of Lok Sabha insofar as their functioning in the committee is concerned.
The association of the members of the Rajya Sabha is justified on the grounds that when the Rajya Sabha has been constitutionally authorised to play a role in authorising the government to spend the money, it should also have the opportunity to see that the authorised amount has been spent economically and for the purpose for which it was meant.
Thus at present, the twenty two members are elected on the basis of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
The tenure of the Committee is one year. The chairman of the Committee is appointed by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha from amongst the members of Committee. The qualification needed tor the chairmanship is only to be a member of the Committee.
The chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee has been given to the Opposition, a practice which is considered democratic.
- The main function of the committee is examination of the accounts and report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in order to ensure that the appropriations sanctioned by the parliament are spent by the executive authorities, “within the scope of the demand. It means that,
- Expenditure should not exceed the appropriation made by the parliament,
- That the expenditure has been incurred for the purpose for which it was voted by the Parliament,
- That amount has been spent by the officials, who are legally authorised to spend the money,
- That the executive has not overlooked the vote of parliament by adjusting expenditure in excess of a grant of another vote whose a saving has occurred.
- The second function of the committee extends beyond the formality of expenditure to its wisdom, faithfulness and economy. It means that the committee is not only to examine that money has been spent according to the rules and regulations, but it is also to see that the approved policy has been implemented by the executive authorities with maximum efficiency and economy.
- The third function of the committee is to examine the technicalities of the procedure employed in maintaining the accounts. In order to discharge these functions, the committee can send for persons, papers and records for evidence purpose. The committee reports its opinion and reservations and comments on items under consideration, but it has no power to disallow any items of expenditure.
- Finally, it is provided in the rules of procedure that the functions of the committee shall also extend in following cases:
- To examine the income and expenditure statement of state corporations, trading and manufacturing schemes, corners and projects.
- To examine the statement of accounts of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies.
- To examine the accounts of those stores and stocks where the audit has been conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
The committee conducts scrutiny by putting questions to the official’s witness. In conducting the major role of committee’s deliberation the chairman plays the most important role.
The chairman, briefed by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Secretary of the Committee takes the lead in putting questions to the official witnesses.
The official witnesses also come with full preparation to provide full knowledge of the problem to be Committee. The meetings of the committee are private and every care is taken to keep the secrecy of the witness.
After the examination of official witnesses, the committee sits down to discuss the framework of its report. When the thorough discussion is over the committee prepares its report, which contains recommendations and findings of the committee.
Thereafter it is presented to the parliament for by the chairman’s acceptance. Sometimes the committee also functions through its sub-committee to study some special problems. The sub-committee submits its report to the committee.