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Centennial Year of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

Context:

President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the Centennial Year Celebration of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Central Hall of Parliament House.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Parliamentary Committees)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Public Accounts Committee’s History
  2. Key points about the PAC
  3. Role of the PAC
  4. What are the challenges faced by PAC?

Public Accounts Committee’s History

  • The PAC website says the Committee on Public Accounts was first set up in 1921 in the wake of the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms.
  • With the Constitution coming into force on January, 26, 1950, the Committee became a Parliamentary Committee functioning under the Speaker with a non-official Chairman appointed by the Speaker from among the Members of Lok Sabha elected to the Committee. But even then, a member from the ruling party continued to be Chairman.
  • The Congress had the post until 1967, when Minoo Masani of Swatantra Party became Chairman. Since then, the PAC has always been headed by a member from the Opposition.

Key points about the PAC

  • The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is appointed by the Speaker of Lok Sabha.
  • The PAC is not an executive body and it can only make decisions that are advisory by nature.
  • It presently comprises 22 members (15 members elected by the Lok Sabha Speaker, and 7 members elected by the Rajya Sabha Chairman) with a term of one year only.
  • It was framed with the purpose of ascertaining whether money granted to the Government by the Parliament has been spent by the former within the “scope of demand” or not, the PAC restricts any Minister from being elected as a member of it.
Infographic on Parliamentary Committees in India | Legacy IAS Academy

Role of the PAC

  • Holding the Executive to account for its use of public money is one the key roles of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the “mother of all Parliamentary Committees”.
  • The primary function of the PAC is to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by the House to meet the expenditure, the annual Finance Accounts of the government and, other such accounts laid before the House as the Committee may think fit except those relating to such Public Undertakings as are allotted to the Committee on Public Undertakings.
  • Apart from the Reports of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on Appropriation Accounts of the Government, the Committee examines the various Audit Reports of the CAG on revenue receipts, expenditure by various Ministries/Departments of Government and accounts of autonomous bodies.
  • The Committee looks upon savings arising from incorrect estimating or other defects in procedure no more leniently than it does upon excesses.

What are the challenges faced by PAC?

  • The PAC’s power to scrutinise expenditure provides for Parliamentary oversight over Executive decisions and acts as a check on slackness, negligence and even wrongdoing on the part of the Executive.
  • However, the lack of technical expertise hinders the PAC’s examinations. Officers are sometimes able to dodge PAC summons, which has prompted suggestions that it should have the power to hand out harsher punishments.
  • In 2016, the Institute of Public Auditors of India (IPAI) sought suo motu powers of investigation for the PAC. The PAC had also pitched for making the CAG and Auditor General (AG) accountable to Parliament.

-Source: The Hindu

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