Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

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    In News

    • The Public Accounts Committee has completed 100 years of its formation.

    About Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

    • About: 
      • The PAC is the oldest parliamentary committee in Indian legislative affairs and has been crucial in upholding the principle of accountability as it exercises oversight of public expenditure.
      • First set up in 1921 in the wake of the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms.
    • Members: 
      • The Public Accounts Committee consists of 22 members elected according to the principle of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote
        • Fifteen members elected by Lok Sabha every year from amongst its members.
        • Seven members of Rajya Sabha elected by that House in like manner are associated with the Committee. 
    • Representation: 
      • This system of election ensures that each Party/Group is represented on the Committee in proportion to its respective strength in the two Houses.
    • Process of Election:
      • In April, each year, a motion is moved in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs or Chairperson of the Committee, if in office, calling upon members of the House to elect from amongst themselves 15 members to the Public Accounts Committee. 
    • Appointment of Chairperson:
      • The Chairperson of the Committee is appointed by the Speaker from amongst the members of Lok Sabha elected to the Committee.
      • As a convention, starting from the Public Accounts Committee of 1967-68, a member of the Committee belonging to the main opposition party/group in the House is appointed as the Chairperson of the Committee
    • Minister not to be Member of Committee:
      • A Minister is not eligible to be elected as a member of the Committee and if a member, after election to the Committee, is appointed as a Minister, she/he ceases to be a member of the Committee from the date of such appointment.
    • Term of Office:
      • The term of office of members of the Committee does not exceed one year at a time.
    • Assistance by CAG:
      • The Committee is assisted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in the examination of Accounts and Audit Reports.
      • CAG has been described as a friend, philosopher, and guide to the PAC.
    • Constitution of Working Groups/Sub-Committees:
      • A number of Working Groups/Sub-Committees are constituted by the Chairperson from amongst the members of the Committee to facilitate the examination of the subjects selected by the Committee and for considering procedural matters. 
      • A Sub-Committee may also be constituted for scrutiny of action taken by the Government on the recommendations contained in the previous Reports of the Committee.

    Role & Functions

    • Check on the government especially with respect to its expenditure bill.
    • Examines the audit report of C&AG after it is laid in the Parliament.
    • PAC promotes the basic principle that parliament embodies the will of the people by exercising check over the executive.
    • Keeps a check on the money spent on any service during a financial year.
    • It examines the accounts of State corporations, Trading concerns and Manufacturing projects.

    Challenges

    • PAC is not concerned with the question of policy in a broader sense
    • PAC generally conducts a post-mortem examination of accounts, i.e., it shows the expenditure already incurred.
    • It cannot intervene in the matters of day-to-day administration.
    • It is not vested with the power of disallowance of expenditure by the departments.
    • Its recommendations are advisory and not binding on the ministries.
    • It is not an executive body and hence, cannot issue an order. Only the Parliament can take a final decision on its findings.

    Conclusion

    • Creates a strong public opinion against the government
    • The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) plays a crucial role in ensuring the accountability of the government.

    Source: IE