PACs want Act amended to make CAG part of legislature

An all-India conference of public accounts committees (PACs) of Parliament and state assemblies has suggested that the law should be amended to make the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) or the government auditor, a permanent part of legislature as in the UK and Australia.

The two-day conference, the first after 15 years of discord between the auditor and the governments in power, stressed on the need to make CAG a part of PACs for harmony between CAG at the centre and states level.

The conference, which concluded on Wednesday, also reiterated the recommendation made by the PAC during last Lok Sabha that the PAC, which examines CAG reports, should be consulted before appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

The PAC at the centre comprises elected representatives of Parliament while state-level PACs have state legislators as their members.

The chairpersons of PACs want the CAG to be made accountable to the legislature, like in the UK and Australia.

Highlighting the suggestions made by Parliament's PAC during 15th Lok Sabha, PAC chairman KV Thomas said the recommendations would be further examined by a sub-committee and would be forwarded to the government to initiate necessary changes in CAG Act of 1971.

The conference recommended that public-private partnership projects should be examined by CAG as public money is spent on them.

Examining the changing role and responsibility of PAC, chairpersons at the conference recommended that PACs should take up suo motu cognisance of public issues and government's flagship programmes and examine financial wrong-doings.

At present, PACs findings are in the form of recommendations and are not binding on the government.

Thomas said, "We have recommended that these should be made mandatory." The chairpersons also pointed out problems PACs face in examining CAG re-ports, adding the reports are delayed.

"Most of the times we are examining officers who are currently holding a charge and not those who had taken the decision. So we should now get the powers to examine the retired officials also. The delay in preparation of reports causes further delay in examining the issue. CAG reports should be more current and examination of them should also be quicker so that the issues are dealt quickly," said Thomas.

Though Parliament has been resisting attempts to open up proceedings of parliamentary committees to the media, the conference recommended that PAC proceedings should be open to the press except in sensitive matters.