Role Of Public Accounts Committee To Review Impacts Of Demonetization
Post on 05,March 2017   6:00 AM
By - PolyEyes Staff
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RBI governor Urjit Patel appeared before the committee to brief it on the impact of demonetization.

Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC): Currently headed by Prof. Kuruppassery Varkey Thomas, Senior Congress MP of Ernakulum Constituency, Kerala.

  • The term of office of members of the committee does not exceed one year at a time.
  • It has been in existence from 1921 and was formed under the Government of India Act, 1919.
  • It is constituted by the Parliament each year for parliamentary oversight over finances of the government.
  • It is a joint committee consisting of 15 members from Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya Sabha who are elected according to principle of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.
  • Since 1967, its chairman by convention is selected from the Opposition parties.
  • The committee is empowered to call witnesses to give evidence and produce documents required by the committees.

Functions/Features of the Committee : To examine the appropriation accounts and the finance accounts of the Union government and any other account laid before the Lok Sabha.

In scrutinizing the Appropriation Accounts and the Reports of the Comptroller and Auditor-General thereon, it is the duty of the Committee to satisfy itself: that the money shown in the accounts are legally disbursed, validity of its purpose and conformation to the authority which governs it; and that every re-appropriation has been made in accordance with the provisions made in this behalf under rules framed by competent authority.

While other Department Related Standing Committees can adopt reports with dissent notes by some members, the PAC must adopt all reports by consensus. This is unique about the PAC, and helps it maintain neutrality

All the deliberations of the committee are confidential.

The functions of the Committee extend however, “beyond, the formality of expenditure to its wisdom, faithfulness and economy” and thus the committee examines cases involving losses, nugatory expenditure and financial irregularities.

The Committee examines cases involving under-assessments, tax-evasion, non-levy of duties, misclassifications etc., identifies the loopholes in the taxation laws and procedures and makes recommendations in order to check leakage of revenue

The government submits an Action Taken Reporton the recommendations of the PAC which is then laid before the parliament

To examine audit reports of various autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, the audit of which is conducted by the CAG, it considers the justification for spending more or less than the amount originally sanctioned.

Shortcomings in the proceedings of PAC:

  • The meetings of the committee are confidential. In contrast, in USA and UK committees allthe statements and proceedings are telecast live and open to public.
  • The members of the committee lacktechnical expertise required togo into intricacies of accounting and administrative principles.
  • The work of the committee is more of a post action review rather than being controlling in nature therefore it cannot effectively protect losses.
  • It does not have suo motu powers of investigations.
  • A lot of politicization of the proceedings:

Recently summoning PM by PAC as well as even during the UPA government, the then PAC Chairperson Murli Manohar Joshi’s decision to summon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in connection with the 2G scam had triggered a massive controversy.

Conclusion: The general public should be allowed to view evidence proceedings of committees, testimony of witnesses, minutes of meeting of the PAC should be made public should be made public either by telecasting it or allowing the press or by making the transcript of testimony public.A set time limit within which CAG audit reports should be presented to the Parliament as well for government departments to submit Action Taken Report can be affixed.

Moreover the PAC should have suo motu(Suo motu, meaning "on its own motion," is a Latin legal term, approximately equivalent to the term suasponte.) power of investigations and they should be allowed with certain technical assistance through Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha Secretariats.

In past however some related events where in the transparency was practiced:

  • In 2016, a committee of the Delhi Vidhan Sabha looking at irregularities in sports administration bodies of cricket and hockey allowed the press to view its proceedings.
  • In 2008, the Goa Vidhan Sabha had also opened up its committee meetings to both the public and press.
  • In the 13th Lok Sabha, the chairman of the joint committee examining the Stock Market Scam briefed the press at the end of each committee meeting.

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