COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
NOTE OF THE WORKING OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Among various Committee of the House, the Public Accounts Committee occupies a place of special importance. Since this is the first meeting of this Committee, it would be in the fitness of things, if I say few words about its scope and functions.
This control of expenditure exercised by the House cannot be made effective simply by voting of Grants. There must be some agency to ensure that amounts voted by the Assembly are spent within the scope of the grants and with efficiency and economy. The Reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India relating to accounts of a State are submitted to the Government of that State who causes them to be laid before the Assembly.
The Assembly is too large a body to consider these Reports, which are technical in character. The Public Accounts Committee, is therefore, constituted for the purpose of examining these Reports in details and submits their recommendations to the Assembly in regard to the manner in which the Executive has spent the money voted by the State legislature.
In our State, as the Hon. Members know, the Committee consists of 13 Members elected by the Assembly. The term of officer of members of the Committee is one year. The Committee can appoint one or more Sub- Committees each having the powers of undivided Committee. This committee like the other Committee constituted by the House has power to send for persons, papers and records provided that if any questions arises whether the evidence of a persons or the production of document is relevant for the purpose of the Committee, the questions shall be referred to the Speaker whose decision shall be final. However, the Government may decline to produce a document on the ground that its disclosure would be prejudicial to the safety or interest of the State.
The main functions of the Committee are to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by the assembly to meet the expenditure of the Government and such other accounts laid before the assembly as the Committee may thing fit.
It does not act as an executive body and has no power, even after the most minute examination and on the clearest evidence, to disallow any item of expenditure or to issue any kind of order. Its function is advisory only and its findings must cast in the form of recommendations to the Government.
In scrutinising the appropriation accounts of the Government of Punjab and the Report of Comptroller and Auditor General thereon, it shall be the duty of the Committee on Public accounts to satisfy itself:-
(a) that the moneys shown in the accounts as having been disbursed were legally available for and applicable to service or purpose to which they have been applied or charged.
(b) that the expenditure conforms to the authority which governs it; and
(c) that every re-appropriation has been made in accordance with provisions made in this behalf under the rules framed by the competent authority; Provided that the provisions made in clause
(c) above shall not apply to any accounts prior to the year 1950-51.</>
It shall also be a duty of the Committee:-
(a) to examine such trading, manufacturing and profit and loss, accounts and balance sheets as the Governor may have required to be prepared and the Comptroller and Auditor General' s Report thereon;
(b) to consider the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in cases where the Governor may have required him to conduct an audit of any receipt or to examine the accounts of stores and stock;
Provided that the committee shall not exercise its functions in relation to such Public Undertakings as are allotted to the Committee on Public Undertaking by the Rules or by the Speaker.
It will be observed that the examination of the paras relating to public Undertaking Committee have been taken away from the purview of the Public Accounts Committee in view of the constitution of the Committee on Public Undertaking of the House.
The Accountant General (Audit), Punjab, personally assists the Committee. He briefs the Committee and suggests the line of enquiry and possible questions.
The Committee in consultation with, and after going through the relevant records kept in the office of the Accountant General frames questionnaire of the various paragraphs and notes contained in the Appropriation Accounts and Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India thereon.The questionnaire framed by the Committee are not exhaustive but are only illustrative and the representatives of Departments when called to appear before the Committee are expected to come fully prepared to answer all questions arising out of or relevant there to.
The Committee probes into the reasons for loose budgeting, ineffective control over expenditure, unsound financial administration, failure to observe prescribed rules and procedure, looses, infractions and nugatory expenditure etc. The Secretariat of the Government who appear before the Committee for oral examination are required to give answer about all the irregularities.
Though the Committee operates ex-post-facto and its work is merely of post mortem but it cannot be said on that account that it is in any way the less important. The very fact or consciousness, that there is someone who will scrutinize what has been done, is a great check on the slackness, negligence of absolutism of the executive. The examination if it is properly carried out, leads to general efficiency of the administration. The labours of the Committee are reflected in the form of its Reports.
According to an established convention, the Reports of the Committee are not discussed on the Floor of the House. Members may, however, during the course of General discussion refer to the various recommendations and observations made by the Committee.
The object of the Committee is not fully served if it does not watch the proper implementation of its recommendation. The Committee, therefore, considers how far the recommendations made by it in its Reports have been implemented by Government. For this purpose, it constitutes an Implementation Sub-Committee.