In a move that could spark off a major debate on 'attempts' to dilute the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India vis-a-vis the powers of Parliament and the government, the two-day long conference of chairpersons of Public Accounts Committees (PACs) recommended immediate amendments to the CAG Act of 1971 so that the country's high-profile chief auditor be made accountable to the legislature.
"The CAG of India is not accountable today even for lapses and certain irregularities it commits in its audit report itself," BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said in presence of chairman of Parliament's PAC, Prof K V Thomas.
The two leaders were talking to media after two-day conference of chairpersons of Public Accounts Committees of parliament and state legislatures. What’s the entire game all about? Who really wants to control CAG?
The reference about CAG-PAC equations did not come out of the blue. In fact on the inaugural address, none other than the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had laid down certain roadmap when she had said, discussions could happen on "complimentary and supplementary" role of the two institutions.
Just a few years back, we had a completely different story. The CAG was supposed to be most credible institution in the country and its findings RS 1.76 lakh crore loss due to scam in 2G scam and later Rs 1.86 lakh crore coal block allocation irregularities were taken as Gospel’s truth!
The backgrounder of course is, that the fungus of corruption had “eaten into all spheres of life” in India and the country was made to believe it’s the CAG which will tame the wrong doers. Coincidentally, the Congress fell prey to the machinations!
The general belief was that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India is the new institute which would bite the slice of the cake and display certain neo-activism. The auditor’s report on Commonwealth Games and others for the first time pointed fingers squarely at the PMO, ironically then run by economist-PM who was also credited for so called ‘honesty’.
Now the game seemed to have changed!
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"During 15th Lok Sabha a suggestion was made by the then PAC that the CAG should be part of legislature
in U.K and Australia," BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said adding the issue figured in the two-day conference convened by Lok Sabha. The conference of chairpersons of PACs was held for the first time after 14 years.
So was it just a formality or a real meeting of minds – where the PAC chiefs sought to give unto themselves more power, more teeth and make governments more accountable to the panel(s).
Prof Thomas said nearly 20 points on issues of powers and jurisdictions of PACs figured during the two-day deliberations and a sub-committee headed by Nishikant Dubey (BJP) will study the suggestions and observations made in the meeting to make appropriate recommendations to the concerned authorities including the President, the Prime Minister and the Lok Sabha Speaker.
The panel comprises of other members like B Mahtab (BJD) and Bhubeneshwar Kalita (Congress).
"This panel will examine all issues involved and likely to recommend amendments in the CAG Act of 1971to bring the auditor under the jurisdiction of Parliament," Dubey said.
The PAC headed by Dr Murli Manohor Joshi in 15th Lok Sabha had recommended that the PAC be consulted by the government before the appointment of the CAG.
"The need for complete independence of the CAG making it a part of PAC would add to the harmonious relations between CAG and the PAC," Dubey said adding the sub-committee will make its recommendations by the end of the financial year 2015-16.
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Asked whether such a move would not dilute the autonomous powers of the CAG, an issue that had figured aftermath CAG reports on spectrum allotment and coal blocks allocation had rocked the UPA dispensation, Dubey replied in negative.
"Where is the question of dilution of CAG's powers. The CAG will be only made accountable to the legislature that is Parliament of India and not to any one individual or the institution," Dubey said.
Prof Thomas said during the two-day deliberations, PAC chairpersons from across the country suggested among other things that the panel deliberations should be "open to media except in sensitive cases".
"The PAC should henceforth also take up examination of expenditures made for Public Private Partnership projects and PAC take suo motu cognizance of issues and also audit the functioning of NGOs," Thomas said.
The Committee on Public Accounts, more popular as PAC, is a permanent body and is constituted by Parliament each year for examination of accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by Parliament for expenditure of Government of India. This PAC is incidentally the oldest Parliamentary Committee and was first constituted in 1921. The Committee consists of 22 Members, 15 members from Lok Sabha and 7 from the Rajya Sabha.
The rule book says, the Speaker is empowered to appoint the Chairman of PAC from amongst its members; but the by convention the chairmanship of PAC is being given to the principal opposition party.
Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor some 'loud' TV anchors would be rated as the "most feared Indian"! Left to former Lok Sabha Speaker, P A Sangma, the mild mannered Congress MP, Prof K V Thomas should be called the 'most feared person' in the country.
The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament is the "most feared person" in the country, the former Lok Sabha Speaker Mr P A Sangma said and maintained that the similar status and importance ought to be attached to the PAC chairpersons at the state level.
"When I was Lok Sabha Speaker during an interaction the then South African President Nelson Mandela told me you (Speaker of Indian Parliament) is the most feared Indian....I had countered him and said Sir, it's not me...but it is Dr Murli Manohor Joshi, who was then PAC chairman," Sangma said addressing the valedictory session of the two-day long conference of chairpersons