The committee was first mentioned in the Montagu and Chelmsford Reforms or the Government of India Act 1919 but it came into existence only in 1921. It examines the annual audit reports and is responsible for mainly taking care of public expenditure to check for any kind of fraud, mal-functioning, waste, or extravagance in the funds utilized in the government projects that are being undertaken. Not only is the committee keeping a record of finance and accounts but scrutinizing the whole thing on the basis of economy, wisdom, and propriety.
These auditing committees are an important but often overlooked part of the Indian Polity. They are responsible for writing down and keeping track of minuscule changes taking place in the country and the small day to day administrative work being undertaken by the government.
Who are the Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)?
- The committee comprises 22 members. 15 from the Lok Sabha (or the Lower House) and 7 from the Rajya Sabha (or the Upper House).
- He or She cannot be a minister in the Cabinet.
- The members are elected from the members of the Parliament by conducting an election by Proportional Representation by means of the Single Transferable Voting System (PRSTV).
- Every member elected by the Parliament holds office for a year after which fresh elections take place and a new set of committee members are elected.
Who is the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee?
The Speaker of the Lok Sabha elects the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee from amongst its members. Though initially, the Chairperson used to be appointed from the ruling party it was later decided to appoint the chairperson from the opposition party invariably. The current Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee is Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Functions of the Public Accounts Committee
- Examines the financial accounts and the appropriation accounts of the Central Government which is made by the Lok Sabha.
- Scrutinizes audit reports made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India to make sure it is justified and no fraud or mistakes have been made. It also ensures that the money used is legally available and also conforms to the cause it’s needed for, to avoid extravagance and wastage.
- Examines accounts of State Corporations, Trading Concerns, and Manufacturing Products.
- Examines the accounts of Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous Bodies.
- It keeps check of any money spent on any service availed or utilized in the year and makes a thorough report of it.
- The CAG is responsible for assisting the PAC throughout the year through all its activities.
The Limitations of the Public Accounts Committee
- It, for the most part, can’t take part in policy-making decisions. It is only responsible for keeping a record of incidents, mainly finances that have already been incurred.
- It can keep account of the money spent but can’t take precautions to save money to be invested in the future or stop government expenditures that it may deem useless.
- It cannot intervene with daily administrative matters.
- The advice given by the committee is not binding upon the ruling party and can be ignored by the ministers if they think it important to.
- It does not have the right to stop any departments from making any kind of expenditures.
- As it is an executive body, so it cannot issue any orders. Only the Parliament decides what to do with the committee’s investigations and reports.
Committee of Public Undertakings
The Public Undertakings Committee was formed in 1964 under the recommendations of the Krishna Menon Committee. The Committee comprises 22 members elected by the Parliament by the method of Proportional Representation Through A Single Transferable Vote. The members hold office for a year and the Chairperson is elected by Speaker. A member from the Rajya Sabha cannot be Chairperson. The committee exists to examine the reports and accounts of the Public Sector Undertakings.
In addition to that, it also takes up CAG’s reports on Public Sector Undertakings. It checks the credibility of the business in public sector undertakings. It is responsible for checking the efficiency and autonomy of the PSUs. It also has to perform any tasks assigned by the Lok Sabha related to its area of expertise.
The Auditing committees working under the government are the backbone of the government who are responsible for recording the changing history and the small nitty-gritty of the daily administrative changes taking place in the country. It is also the last line of defense as it scrutinizes and inspects for any kind of misalignment or small details that might have been overlooked but could result in a huge loss for the country. Though these parties hold no actual power but it acts as small checks and balances that make the scales of law even and just.