Discuss the role of parliamentary committees in ensuring financial accountability of the executive.
A Parliamentary committee is a group of members appointed by one or both Houses of Parliament to undertake a certain duty. Accountability is the essence of democratic form of governance. The various parliamentary Committees constitute very potent instruments for effecting parliamentary surveillance over executive action. It is through these committees that Parliament enforces the responsibility of the Executive to itself and to the people.
Of this, financial accountability is enforced by –
- Public Accounts Committee
- Estimates Committee
- Committee on Public Undertakings
ROLE OF PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES IN ENSURING FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE EXECUTIVE:
A. PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
- The function of the committee is to examine the annual audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which are laid before the Parliament by the President.
- The committee examines public expenditure not only from legal and formal point of view to discover technical irregularities but also from the point of view of economy, prudence, wisdom and propriety to bring out the cases of waste, loss, corruption, extravagance, inefficiency and nugatory Expenses.
B. ESTIMATES COMMITTEE
- The function of the committee is to examine the estimates included in the budget and suggest ‘economies’ in public expenditure. Hence, it has been described as a ‘continuous economy committee’.
- To report what economies, improvements in organisation, efficiency and administrative reform consistent with the policy underlying the estimates, can be affected
- To suggest alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency and economy in administration
- To examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of the policy implied in the estimates.
- To suggest the form in which the estimates are to be presented to Parliament
C. COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC UNDERTAKINGS.
- To examine the reports and accounts of public undertakings
- To examine the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General on public undertakings
- To examine (in the context of autonomy and efficiency of public undertakings) whether the affairs of the public undertakings are being managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices
- To exercise such other functions vested in the public accounts committee and the estimates committee in relation to public undertakings which are allotted to it by the Speaker from time to time.
Apart from this, Adhoc Committees can be appointed by either House to assess financial performance against public expenditure. These committees can inquire as well as advise the executive for financial inconsistencies. e.g. Committee on MPLADs scheme, Committee to examine allocation of Telecom licences etc.
Nevertheless, Parliamentary Committees provide adequate time and necessary expertise by holistically evaluating financial powers of the executive. In a way, these committees embodies the will of the people and oversee the way in which public policy is carried out so as to ensure that it keeps in step with the objectives of socio-economic progress, efficient administration and the aspirations of the people as a whole. Thereby these committees check the misuse of public resources and strengthen financial accountability in Parliamentary form of governance.