Make CAG accountable to parliament: Public Accounts Committee

New Delhi, April 29 (IANS) The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has in a special report submitted to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan recommended that parliament be made a party to the appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India and that a “stringent monitoring mechanism” be evolved for effective implementation of the PAC recommendations.

“The committee desires that necessary amendments to the constitutional provisions to effect these may be considered,” the panel said in its 27-point recommendation referring to the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971, to make CAG accountable to parliament.

“The committee desires that CAG Act, 1971, should be revisited so as to keep appointment of CAG outside the exclusive purview of the executive as suggested by the Justice Venkatachaliah National Commission to review the working of Constitution and also to make CAG accountable to legislature,” the panel said.

“The PAC also feels necessary amendments be made to make CAG accountable to parliament,” PAC chairman K.V. Thomas of the Congress said.

“There is most often inordinate delay in submitting of Action Taken Reports from the government ministries and departments. At times we had 2,900 pending matters. Even the Action Taken Reports on Bofors is still pending since 1980s,” PAC member Nishikant Dubey of the BJP told reporters at a joint press conference with Thomas.

Sharing similar sentiments, Thomas said a report was submitted to the Speaker on Thursday. Among other things, it has recommended it should be ensured “that PAC recommendations are implemented in right earnest and that any exception should be explained at the level of minister”.

He said at times the PAC “is not provided with full data and therefore the losses suffered on the KG Basin gas blocks could not be quantified”. “We can summon the full CAG and seek details on the matter,” he added.

A sub-committee set up by the PAC last September with BJP’s Nishikant Dubey as its convenor, has also recommended that the CAG should be allowed to “conduct audit of NGOs, any enterprise or programme where government funding is involved, including in government operated agencies like District Rural Development Agencies and Public Private Partnership projects.”

“Till now, projects under PPP model are not audited. Various flagship schemes are not audited. But we feel any money spent from the consolidated fund of India ought to be audited by the CAG,” Thomas said.

The report of the sub-committee — that also had Biju Janata Dal’s Tatagatha Sathpathy and Congress’s Bhubaneswar Kalita as members — was on Thursday submitted to the Speaker by the full PAC headed by Thomas.

“We have made our recommendations, including on the role of PAC or Parliament in the appointment of CAG. Till now the appointment of CAG is done by the executive alone. It is up to the Speaker for a follow-up,” Thomas said.

Dubey said ever since the PAC started monitoring the delay from various departments, there has been a massive improvement.

“From a stage when there was 2,900 pending Action Taken Reports, it has now come up to 750,” he said, and added that most delays are from the ministries of defence, railways and human resource development.

The committee also desired that the chairpersons of the central and state PACs “should be given status of Union Cabinet and state Cabinet Minister” respectively.

It felt former and present officials should be called as witness before the PAC in order to understand critical aspects of a matter under examination.

“For this, even retired officials should be made liable to appear before PAC,” the committee said.

In September last year, at the conference of chairpersons of Public Accounts Committees (PACs) from across the country, a list of suggestions and observations was framed. Subsequently, a sub-committee headed by Nishikant Dubey was set up to study the suggestions made in the meeting.



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