Public Accounts Committee in India – Composition, Function, Importance
Public Accounts Committee in India
This article contains an introduction, composition, importance and functions of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that is constituted by Indian Parliament.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) examines the report of Accounts of the union government submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, to the President. The Public Accounts Committee in India ensures Parliamentary control over government expenditure.
In India either House is entitled to have a Public Accounts Committee (P. A. C.) of its own, for the President lays the report on accounts of union government submitted by the Auditor and Comptroller General before each House of the Parliament.
However, only the Lok Sabha has constituted a P.A.C. The Public Accounts Committee is composed of a maximum of 22 members. The present P.A.C. consists of 15 members from the Lok Sabha. From 1954, 7 members from the Rajya Sabha are elected to the P.A.C. as associate members. Thus, the present P.A.C is a joint committee of the two Houses. Ministers are not eligible for election. By convention, a member of the opposition is named chairman of this committee by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
Function of Public Accounts Committee of the Indian Parliament
The function of this committee is firstly to examine the report of Accounts of the union government submitted by the Auditor and Comptroller General of India, to the President. Article 151 of the Indian constitution require the President to lay this report before each House of the Parliament.
Secondly, in examining the report of the Auditor and Comptroller General, the committee has to satisfy itself that (a) the expenditures made by the government, were authorized by the Parliament, and (b) that the expenditures under any head has not crossed the limits of parliamentary authorization. Every expenditure made by the government must be sanctioned by the Parliament. Thus, the committee brings to the notice of the Parliament instances of unauthorized expenditures or expenditures beyond sanctioned limits.
Thirdly, the committee not only ensures that ministries spend money in accordance with parliamentary grants, it also brings to the notice of the Parliament instances of extravagance, loss, in fructuous expenditure and lack of financial integrity in public services. The committee cannot question polices of the government. It only concerns itself with the execution of policy on its financial aspects.
Fourthly, a new dimension is added to the function of the P.A.C., as it is entrusted with scrutinizing the Audit report of public corporations. This aspect of the P.A.C. was unknown when Gladstone instituted the P.A.C. in the sixties of the last century. But today both in England and in India, huge sums of money are invested in public corporations. In India more than 30,000 crores of rupees are invested in public corporations. Naturally examining the accounts of these corporations constitutes a very important aspect of the work of the P.A.C.
Finally, in examining the audits and accounts of the ministries and public corporations, the P.A.C. gets the opportunity to scrutinize the process of their working. It points out the weakness and shortcomings of the administration of ministries and public corporations Criticisms of the P.A.C. draw national attention. This keeps the ministries and public corporations sensitive to the criticisms of the P.A.C. Thus, it is wrong to suppose that the P.A.C. is only an instrument of financial control, it is as well an instrument of administrative control.
The Public Accounts Committee examines the accounts of the Government. The Government expenditures are thoroughly examined and ensured that the Parliamentary limits are not breached. The Government and ministers stay alert while making expenditures because they know that the financial breaches, if any, will be revealed during the examination by P.A.C.
Because of the overwhelming importance of the Public Accounts Committee (P.A.C.) both the government and the opposition try to gain control over the P.A.C. The government has an inbuilt advantage in that, inevitably the majority of members of the P.A.C. belong to the ruling party. But the opposition also has an advantage. It has now become a convention that the chairman of the P.A.C. is a member of the opposition. But since the chairman is nominated by the Speaker, whether an effective and assertive member of the opposition will be the chairman depends on the strict neutrality of the Speaker.