PubAd Q&A: In a parliamentary government, parliament has several instruments to ensure the financial accountability. Critically evaluate.

In a parliamentary government, parliament has several instruments to ensure the financial accountability.  Critically evaluate.

Article 112 of the Indian Constitution says that the President of India will shall cause to be laid ‘annual financial statement’ before both the houses. This is popularly known as budget. Govt. needs approval of the parliament even to draw even one rupee from consolidated fund of India.

Parliament ensures financial accountability by the following ways:

In the beginning of each financial year, Estimate Committee examines the estimates of various ministries. Estimate committee suggests alternative policies in order to bring efficiency and economy in administration.

On the next day of budget during ‘General Discussion on the Budget’ parliament has the liberty to discuss budget as a whole or any question of principle.

After the general discussion, demands of each ministry/department are examined by concerned Standing Committee.  Committee gives separate report for each ministry. Demands for Grants are discussed in the light of these reports.

Once the discussion is over, members of parliament get an opportunity to move cut motions (policy cut, token cut, economy cut) to reduce the amount of demand. Cut motions represent the disapproval of some aspect of budget.

Comptroller and Auditor General examines the accounts of GOI in all its financial transactions. CAG checks whether the money has been spent as authorized by parliament and for the purpose for which it was granted. Selected reports of CAG are again taken by Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

In spite of all this checks and balances there is growing belief among public that public money is highly misutilized, mismanaged and lavishly spent on non development activities. Recent news in media of spending 35 Lakh of maintenance of toilet of Planning commission office, 12 crore spent on a chief minster’s home maintenance, inflated rate purchases during commonwealth games, multi lakh rupees bills of tea/coffee in ministries clearly points out the loopholes of accountability mechanism.

Other than this programs like NREGA, Sarve Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid-day meal scheme and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) are being implemented through parallel channels of PRIs, NGOs, PPP. Government transfers assistance to state and district level autonomous bodies which are outside the budget of state govt. budget and thus such accounts remains unaudited. As per CAG chief Vinod Rai, over 83000 crore Rs. spent in 2008-09 remains unaudited which is almost 50% of total planned expenditure.

Thus there is clear need to strengthen our accountability process.

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