Public Accounts Committee, mother of all?
Recently, the Public accounts Committee had summoned the RBI governor and has also stated that the committee could even summon the Prime Minister in case it was not satisfied with the explanation on demonetization by the governor. The Public Accounts Committee is called the ‘mother of all Parliamentary committees’ and is the authority to look after the expenditures of the government.
The committee was first set up in 1921 under the provisions of the Government of India act of 1919. It consists of 22members, 15 from the Lok sabha and 7 from the Rajya Sabha. A minister cannot be elected as a member of the committee. The chairman of the committee is appointed by the speaker, from the opposition as a convention.
In order to delegate the functions of the parliament, a number of committees have been formed by the houses of the parliament. The committees undertake various tasks in order to assist the parliament to function in a better and efficient manner. The role of the Public accounts Committee is to mainly examine the annual audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India which are laid before the Parliament by the President. It also examines the appropriation accounts of the Union Government. It compares the accounts of the actual expenditure with that of the sanctioned amount of expenditure.
While scrutinizing the reports, the committee also ensures that the funds disbursed are from proper legal authority and followed according to the appropriation rules. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India acts as a guide, friend, philosopher of the committee.
However, there are certain drawbacks of the committee. It mainly does the post mortem examination of accounts, i.e. once the expenditure has occurred. Most of its functions are advisory in nature and not binding upon the ministries or authorities concerned. Moreover, the committee takes its decisions on a consensus rather than a majority view unlike other committees of the Parliament. Therefore there is hardly any scope of dissent. And it also takes a very long time to decide upon any matter.
Though it is rightly called the mother of all committees, still there is a need to strengthen the committee and its functions because it is an authority which keeps a track of the public funds, fiscal policies and programmes of the government.