April 2002 - December 2002 - Parliamentary control over public purse in India

Parliamentary Control over Public Purse in India

P. K. Mukhopadhyay*

1. Introduction

Parliamentary control over public purse is the central point in public financial administration and key to the public accountability system. Parliament sets goals of public financial management and watches performance of government in these areas. At issue is the question whether parliamentary control over public purse is effective for improvement in the quality of public investment and accountability of the executives.

2. Control and accountability

Legislative controls over executive are an exercise of power through a series of techniques (goal setting, restrictions and reporting) to ensure that expenditure remains within the grants and the financial actions of government correspond to fiscal policies and objectives approved by the Parliament.

Parliamentary control over public purse is also an instrument of accountability at the highest level of government. Accountability has been universally considered a positive democratic value and important element of good governance. The accountability relationships in the Parliamentary system have three inter-related groups :

  • The public, who receives service from the politicians and executives and wants them to be accountable to them.
  • The political leaders who frame policy and provide resources to the executives to implement the policies and therefore want them to be accountable to them.
  • The executives who are service providers and are to account for the resources provided to them by the political leaders.

Accountability is not an option but an essential obligation to the people of a nation owed by its Parliament, its government and the ministries and departments in government.

Parliament acts on behalf of people and obtains the accountability information from the executives who are obliged to provide this information. Budget is the instrument through which the goal setting is approved by the Parliament and against this, the executive provides information of performance in the form of accounts and other performance reports.

Audit contributes to the accountability process through objective and independent analysis of the performance information and reporting on such matters to Parliament. Audit reports assist Parliament to keep government accountable by enabling it to demand improvement in performance.

3. Background information

India adopted the Westminster model of responsible government in distinction from the American model of separation of powers of legislature, executive and judiciary. Under this system, executives
are selected from the members of legislature and the majority party or group in the legislature forms the government. While considering the Budget, legislature does not increase or reduce the proposed expenditure or taxation by any amount. The reason is that, government remains in power only so long as it has a majority in Parliament and so long the executive has majority, the appropriations can not be revised or altered.

(a) Legal framework of Parliamentary control

Legal foundation of Parliamentary control is based on the Constitutional provision that all revenues and receipts of Government are to go to a ‘Consolidated Fund’ and moneys can be withdrawn from the ‘Fund" only in accordance with the laws passed by the Parliament. The constitutional provisions and conventions for Parliamentary control through the annual budget are shown in Box 1.

This paper presents an overview of the Parliamentary financial control in the Central Government and highlights the need for capacity building. The analysis is based mainly on the papers related to the Parliament of India. However, the conclusions of this paper would be applicable to most of the states due to the uniformity in the practice in the Center and the States.

Parliamentary Control over Public Purse Box-1

Constitutional Provision

Article 266

All revenues and receipts of government are to go to a `Consolidated Fund’ and moneys can be withdrawn from the `Fund’ only in accordance with laws passed by Parliament.

Article 112

  • President to place Annual Financial statement before Parliament every financial year.
  • Charged and voted estimates of expenditure to be shown separately.
  • Expenditure on revenue account to be shown as distinct from other expenditure.

Article 113

  • Charged expenditure not to be submitted to the vote of Parliament.
  • Expenditure of estimates to be submitted in the form of demands for Grants to Parliament for its assessment.
  • Prior recommendation of President necessary for placing demand for Grants.

Article 114

  • Withdrawal of moneys from the Consolidated Fund only after passing of the Appropriation Bill.

Article 115

  • Provision of supplementary, additional or excess grants.

Article 116

  • Provision of vote on account, vote on credit and exceptional grants.

Article 117

  • Finance Bill to be introduced in the Parliament with the recommendation of the President of India

Parliamentary Rules/Orders

  • Introduction of New Service and New Instrument of service.
  • Approval of excess demands for grants by PAC before their presentation to the Parliament for discussion and approval.
  • Examination of detailed demand for grants and proposals for taxation by the Departmental Standing Committees.
  • Placing of various documents along with the Budget proposals.
  • Placing of performance Budget along with the detailed demand for grants.

While the Parliamentary controls are defined in the Constitution, the operation of controls is ensured through committees established by Parliamentary Rules etc. These committees are Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Committee on Public Undertaking (COPU), Estimates Committee (EC) and Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSC). Railway Convention Committee and Estimate Committee are not substantively involved in the financial control area and hence their activities are not reviewed in this study. Functions of committees are described in Box 2.

Financial Committees at a glance

Box-2

Committee on Public Accounts

  • Constituted under Rule No. 308 of the Rules of Procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha.
  • Total No. of members-22
  • Term of office - One year

Functions

  • Examines the Appropriation Accounts and Annual Finance Accounts.
  • Examines the Report of CAG of India on these accounts and other matters.
  • Examines the expenditure by various ministries /departments and accounts of autonomous bodies.
  • Examines various aspects of tax administration.
  • Ascertains that Government spent money within the scope of the demand.
  • Functions of the Committee extend "beyond the formality of expenditure to its wisdom, faithfulness, and economy".
  • Examines and reports on money spent in excess of the amount granted by the House for regularisation.
  • Can take up suo moto subjects not covered in CAG’s Report.
  • Ministers not called before the Committee.

Committee on Public undertaking

  • Constituted under Rule No. 312 A of Rules of Procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha.
  • Total number of members-22
  • Term of office -Not to exceed one year

Functions

  • Examines the reports and accounts of the Public Undertakings and Reports of CAG of India.
  • Examines whether the affairs of Public Undertakings are being managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices.
  • Not to examines matters of major Government policy as distinct from business or commercial functions of Public undertakings or matters of day to day administration.
  • Ministers not called before the Committee.

Railway Convention Committee

  • Ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee.
  • Total no of members -18
  • Term of office - Committee becomes functus officio after presenting its final report on rate of dividend.

Functions

  • Reviews the rate of dividend payable by Railways to the General Revenue.
  • Suggests level of appropriations to be made to various funds of Railways.
  • Reports on subjects, which have a bearing on the working of Railways and Railway Finance.

Committee on Estimates

  • Constituted under - Rule 310 of Procedure and conduct of Business of Lok Sabha.
  • Total No. of members -30
  • Term of office -Not to exceed one year.

Functions

  • Reports on what economics, improvements in organisation, efficiency or administrative reforms, consistent with the policy underlying the estimates, may be effected.
  • Suggests alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency and economy in administration.
  • Examines whether the money is well laid out within the limits of policy implied in the estimates.
  • Suggests the form in which estimates shall be presented to Parliament

Departmentally Related Standing Committee

  • Constituted under Rule 331C to 331N of the Rules of Procedure and conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
  • Started in 1993.
  • Total No. of Committees -17
  • Total No. of members - 45 (Loksabha-30, Rajya Sabha 15) in each committee.
  • Term of office—One year.

Functions

  • Considers and report on Demand for Grants for the concerned ministries. No cut motion to be suggested.
  • Examines and reports on Bills referred to the Committee.
  • Considers Annual Report on Ministries /Departments.
  • Considers national basic long term policy documents, if referred to.
  • Not to consider matters of day to day administration and matter which are under consideration by other Parliamentary Committees.

Power of the executive to appropriate funds from ‘revenue’ to ‘capital’ or ‘charged’ to ‘voted’ or vice versa is also restricted and fresh approval of legislature is necessary when such appropriations are needed.

(iii) Ex-post control.

Arguably there could be no control after the budgetary grants are spent. The mechanism of regularisation of excess expenditure over grants provides opportunity to look into the reasons of excess and thus enforce accountability for such excess.

The PAC on the basis of reports of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) examines the excess over the budgetary grants, which come up for ex-post facto approval of Parliament. Based on the Committee’s recommendation, the Parliament regularises such excess.

CAG audits and reports on Appropriation Accounts and provides comprehensive reports on the financial and fiscal management of the Government and performance of development programmes. These reports are examined by the PAC to assess the performance of the Government. This is a very detailed accountability exercise through examination of the officers of the departments and agencies and verification of their written representations. PAC submits its recommendations to Parliament and also reports on the action taken on these recommendations.

4.Role of other stakeholding bodies and institutions

Scope of general public having a voice or participation in public activities encourages transparency in decision making and is a powerful element in good governance. The Parliamentary telecast of debates on budget provides opportunity to general public to indirectly participate in the process and voice their views as soon as budget is presented.

There is strong media presence in India and they report extensively on budgetary debates. Pre and post budget analysis and discussion in the electronic media provide opportunity to the general public for gaining insight into the budgetary process. Participation of trade and industries is ensured through the pre budget consultation with various interest groups of industry and trade.

5. Existing system in perspective

The roles of the executive and legislature in allocation of tax powers and expenditure responsibilities are clearly defined. The grants are scrutinised by the DRSCs. Reports of the Standing Committees are public documents and reported in the press.

  • CAG reports only to the Parliament and provides detailed value for money assessment of programmes and projects undertaken by Government. Independence of the CAG provides strength to the accountability process. The PAC and COPU report to Parliament, about the action taken on CAG’s Reports.
  • Standardised classification of accounts has established accounts and budget link and facilitates assessment of budgetary performance in financial terms. Computerisation of accounts provides timely inputs for performance assessment by Parliament. Since the
    inter-governmental fiscal transactions are significant, the standardisation of accounts classification facilitates comparing the operations of these two levels of government.
  • Budgetary information and disclosures have been strengthened through several publications including ‘Budget at a Glance’. Furthermore, Performance Budgets assist in reporting on the management of Plan schemes.
  • Telecast of Budget presentation and reaction to the proposals on real time basis facilitates public participation in the process of budgeting. Media exposure to legislative debate over Budget contributes to public awareness of the government policies and programmes.

6. Factors affecting legislative financial control

(i) Budgetary aspects

Parliamentary control over public finances is operative mostly through the approval of the Annual Budget and its ramifications. Some aspects of budgeting have significant impact on the quality and extent of control.

  • The Budget does not fully disclose the extent of tax expenditure (subsidies, tax concessions and tax deferrals) and quasi fiscal activities. e.g. it also does not indicate the full extent of contingent liabilities and therefore, assessment of fiscal risk is inadequate.
  • Plan and non-plan components of the Budget impose rigidity in the overall structure of the expenditure proposals. The Plan budget (comprising nearly 30 per cent of the total budget) for the most part, are transfers to states and the public sector enterprises. An analyst1 noted that Budget formulation represents a basic paradox as only the Plan budget is proactive and geared for additional spending while the remaining part is decided on reactive basis in the light of preliminary estimates. The large element of reactive budget limits Parliament’s power of influencing major spending policies and the fiscal direction of the country.
  • The non-plan budget comprises large chunks of payments of interest, debt payment and transfer to states (block grants, devolution of centrally collected taxes etc). Remaining part of it are mostly staff cost and consumption expenditure. There is little flexibility of staff cost. Legislative scrutiny of plan estimates looks at the policy but has to observe the ceilings on the overall outlays and sectoral outlays decided by the Planning Commission and the Government.
  • Budget making is a year round activity. The budget undergoes major changes during the year as reflected in the difference between the revised estimates and the original estimates. Consequently despite the expenditure ceilings approved by Parliament, they are presented with proposals of major revisions at the end of the budget period.
  • There is no system of providing expenditure plan along with the demands. Tendency to release plan funds to the states at the end of the year results in booking of expenditure without the funds being actually spent. An expenditure plan may provide an assurance of planned disbursement of the total amount sanctioned by Parliament. Over the years, budgetary controls have been bypassed by parking budgeted funds in Personal Ledger Accounts in the states while the amounts are shown as expended. This is facilitated by the delayed release of funds to the States and reliance on utilisation certificates for the use of such funds.
  • The large amount of charged expenditure out of total demands (71 to 77 per cent in the last
    5 years) restricts Parliament’s control to a relatively small portion of the total budget.
  • High incidence of indirect taxes makes the receipt budget inflexible. Tax concessions and tax deferrals affect the receipts, as these are not reflected in the budget adequately.

Effectively therefore the scope of control gets restricted and the condition that the government abides by its promises set out in the budget proposals can not be taken for granted. Unless the structural issues are addressed, the accountability to the legislature will appear to be: "illusory, distant and hopelessly insignificant"2.

(ii) Limitations in functioning of the Committees

The working of the Parliamentary committees namely DRSCs, PAC and COPU have certain limitations.

(a) Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSC)

  • Time at the disposal of the DRSC is inadequate. They start the examination of the Detailed Demand for Grants after middle of March and have to complete the examination before the Parliament resumes. In 1996 and 1997 effective reviews of budgetary grants were not possible due to delay in presentation of budget (July in 1996 instead of February) and resignation of government soon after the presentation of the Budget.
  • DRSCs have to analyse formidable statistical information contained in the Detailed Demand for Grants, and documents like Performance Budget, Annual Reports, Plan evaluating Reports, Reports of CAG, Reports of PAC and COPU etc. and above all the huge written material obtained from the departments. Since the Committees are to deal with various other legislative works
    (see Box 3), time at their disposal for financial work is relatively less.
  • The committees are serviced by the Secretariat staff, who are generalists. The basis of estimation, zero base examination of the ongoing schemes and the rationale or accuracy of estimates and demands require research support in financial and fiscal management which is not evident in the existing system.
  • The DRSCs mainly examine the departmental officers. The political executives are outside their ambit. DRSCs of other departments do not examine MOF officials, (while examining the departmental proposals) who ultimately decide the size of the Grants. Thus in one case, when the DRSC for Defense emphasised* the need of raising the defense budget to the level of atleast
    3 per cent of the GDP, the departmental officers merely pointed out that they had forwarded the recommendations to the MOF.
  • DRSCs have 45 members and short life span (one year). The large size of the DRSC makes effective functioning difficult.
  • Jurisdiction of the committees extends to more than one ministry. Such bunching reduces the scope of acquiring expertise by the members in respect of any departments.

(b) Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

  • DRSCs can not propose any alteration of the amounts reflected in the Budget. Hence any recommendation regarding the policy or the financial ceilings by DRSC are indicative suggestions. It is not uncommon that these suggestions may be overlooked while framing subsequent budget. The reports of DRSCs being advisory, these have no binding force and may not be accepted by government (see Box 3).

PAC is traditionally considered the most important financial Committee of Parliament in the financial accountability process. It has wide ambit, it examines the budgetary appropriations and accounts of the government and Reports of CAG on the execution of the projects and programmes by the ministries. By convention, the recommendations of the PAC are considered as the recommendation of the entire House. The Parliament also considers the Action Taken Report on the recommendations of PAC.

Discussions of CAG’s reports by PAC and finalisation of its recommendations have been slow. In
1998-1999 PAC selected 7 per cent of the total 1197 paras included in CAG’s Reports on Central Government. Actual examination was confined to 2 per cent of the paras. Reports on Central Excise and Customs Receipts and on Autonomous Bodies and Scientific Department were not discussed1. Large-scale exclusion of items from examination and discussions restricts effectiveness of Parliament.

In the states, discussions of CAG’s Audit Reports have been pending for 15 years in some cases.
In several states, including UP, the discussions of CAG’s Reports are pending since 1983.

The PAC’s report is recommendatory and not binding on the Governments. During 1998-99,
44.3 per cent of the recommendations of PAC were accepted by Government.

The demand for excess grants, are examined by the PAC before they are presented to the Parliament for regularisation. This system has virtually collapsed in the states where
Rs.94000 crores (Rs 940 billion) of excess expenditure dating back to 1970s in some cases is awaiting approval of legislatures.

(c) Committee on Public Undertakings(COPU)

The functioning of COPU is similar to PAC in relation to the Public Sector Enterprises. The COPU discusses the reports of CAG on the accounts and performance of the PSEs. They examine the representatives of the Government as well as the enterprise and their recommendations are primarily directed towards the controlling department of the Government.

As in the case of PAC, the examination of reports of CAG by COPU has also fallen into delays. In 1998-99 COPU selected 2.5 per cent of the paras included in CAG’s Reports. Effectiveness of Parliament is restricted due to large scale exclusion of paras from CAG's Reports from examination and discussion by COPU.

Functioning of two Department Related Standing Committees (1998-99)
Box-3

Committee on Agriculture

  • Committee deals with Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
  • The committee held 30 sittings lasting 65 hours 55 minutes.
  • The Committee received 5275 typed pages of material.
  • Additional memorandum was received from 7 officials and non-officials.
  • The committee undertook on-the-spot study visits to 11 places/institutions lasting over a total number of 18 days. The committee finalised and presented 11 original reports covering Demand for Grants and 11 Action Taken Reports.
  • No Bill was referred to the Committee.
  • Committee serviced by one Joint Secretary, one Deputy Secretary, one Under Secretary and one Assistant Director. Additional Secretary was overall in charge.
  • 49.16 per cent of recommendations accepted by the Government.

Committee on Finance

1.Finance (Amendment) Bill

2.Foreign exchange management Bill

3.Prevention of Money Rendering Bill

4.Constitution (Amendment)Bill

5.Insurance Regulatory Authority Bill

6.Securities Contract (Amendment) Bill

7.Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill

  • Committee serviced by one Director, one Under Secretary, one Assistant Director. Addl. Secretary over all in charge.
  • 36.42 per cent of recommendations accepted by the Government.
  • Committee deals with Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning and Programme Implementation. They were to deal also with 8 Bills referred to them.
  • The committee held 36 sittings lasting about 712 hours.
  • The Committee received 4858 typed pages of material.
  • Committee presented 22 Reports, of which 7 related to Demand for Grants, 7 to the Bills referred to the Committee and 8 Action Taken Reports.
  • Committee undertook on-the-spot study tours for 2 days.
  • Bills referred to Committee.

Source: Departmentally Related Standing Committees 1998-99. A review Lok Sabha Secretariat

7. Key issues in strengthening the parliamentary financial control

Summing up

  • Parliamentary financial control system in India has a firm legal base and meets the norm of good governance. But there is significant gap between theory and practice. Unless this is attended to Parliament’s ability to watch over nation’s financial affairs can no longer be taken for granted.
  • To strengthen Parliamentary control, budget proposals need be supported by expenditure plan and periodical reports on performance. This will contribute to greater depth in control and ensure effective accountability of government to Parliament.
  • There is scope for Parliamentary financial control to be proactive in monitoring the budgetary performance of government. A Parliamentary budget office could be a suitable institutional mechanism for this. Effective use of information technology would facilitate Parliamentary financial control.
  • Departmental Standing Committees need research and institutional support for effective scrutiny of budget proposals. Acceptance and implementation of the Committees’ reports by government should be comprehensive.
  • Discussion of reports of CAG by PAC and COPU need to gain momentum to improve the accountability process. Discussion should cover and emphasise issues rather than exceptions. Media participation in the Committee’s deliberations will improve public financial accountability.
  • Timely response and complete action on Audit Reports will need to be assured to strengthen Parliamentary Control and accountability process.

The foregoing review underlines the need for revitalisation of the present system. These relate to budgetary control, committee system of scrutiny, and use of technology.

(i) Budgetary control issues

Points relating to the structural problems and lack of transparency in budget adversely affecting parliamentary financial control were discussed earlier. Reform in these areas would improve the relevance, reliability and transparency of the budget which is necessary to ensure better accountability and control. The operational areas and their ramifications are discussed below:

  • CAG’s review of the successive Central Budgets pointed out consistent under projection of fiscal and revenue deficits by over-estimation of tax receipts and under-estimation of expenditure.
    Due to unrealistic budgetary forecasts, actual fiscal deficit overshot the estimates by
    10 to 60 per cent during 1994-991. CAG has repeatedly questioned the budgetary assumptions and emphasised the need of improved resource management. In 1998-99 nearly 5.5 per cent of the total Central Budget provisions remained unspent. Large part of these unspent funds
    related to developmental areas. Cases of excess expenditure over authorised amounts were also substantial. Poor financial management and control resulted in unnecessary re-appropriation and supplementary demands and unauthorised expenditure on new services1. Such recurrent
    aberrations in the annual budgets underline the need of critical legislative scrutiny of the budgetary proposals.
  • It is also a point whether the Westminster style of control, suitable for a relatively small country in terms of geographical, cultural and economic diversity like UK would be relevant in India2. Secondly, in UK, exchequer control is exercised by CAG on behalf of the Parliament. This reduces scope of excess expenditure over the grants. There is no such centralized exchequer control in India. The budget passed by the Parliament undergoes many changes in course of the year due to cash and funds flow compulsions and the post budget clearance of expenditure proposals for the schemes.
  • Evidently there is scope for a more proactive role of Parliament to ensure that budgetary projections are realistic and their executions do not transgress the approved budgetary policy and ceiling. This will also reduce the scope of successive re-appropriations and supplementaries. To facilitate better control of Parliament, the Demands for Grants need be supported by expenditure plan. In view of the tendency towards excess expenditure almost routinely in the states, exchequer control in some form at the State level merit consideration to ensure integrity of budgetary control of legislature. Given the advancement in information technology, exchequer control in some form at the center should also be considered.
  • There is no system of a formal mid year review by Parliament of the performance of government against the macro-economic forecasts and expenditure or taxation projections. Parliament has to wait till the end of the year for an overall picture through revised budget proposals. This underlines the necessity of a formal mechanism like a Parliamentary budget office, which may monitor the budgetary performance on behalf of Parliament based on periodic reporting on budget and extra budgetary outturn by the government. Parliamentary budget office will also facilitate pre-budget consultation to provide input in the budget formulation stage.
  • Periodical reporting of performance against budgetary policies should be possible due to the improvements in electronic data capture and processing facilities. Government could report to Parliament periodically, the actual outflow of funds as against the expenditure plan and actual collection of taxes. Timely reporting on major budget forecasts and fiscal projections would enhance the quality of Parliamentary control.

(ii) Control through Committees are not effective.

(iii) Accountability issues are disregarded.

(iv) Audit effectiveness issues

Constraints in the working of CAG need to be addressed on priority basis.

  • Independence of CAG is one of the main sources of his effectiveness as an instrument of accountability. An aspect of this independence is the Constitutional provision that CAG presents his Reports to the President or the Governors who cause them to be laid before the Parliament or the Legislature(s) as the case may be. In actual practice this provision is misused by the governments in the States to delay the presentation of the Reports at their free will though they have no role once the Reports are finalised. As a result, legislatures are deprived of their privilege of timely information about the executive performance through CAG’s Reports. This issue will need speedy resolution through suitable legislation, if necessary in the overall national interest and the need to strengthen legislative financial control.
  • Large number of Audit Reports are not being discussed by PAC and COPU both in the Centre and the States. In many States, replies to most of the audit observations are not furnished at all by government departments or are delayed interminably and the Audit Reports are finalised without considering governments views. After the Reports are laid, government departments do not furnish explanatory memorandum to PAC and virtually no action is taken by them till the PAC discussion is held. In many cases, the replies are incomplete or tentative. Evidently the apathy and non-responsiveness of governments nullifies the effectiveness of audit.
  • The huge arrear in discussion of Audit Reports and non-action in the matter of audit observations have fostered an atmosphere of lack of accountability and permissiveness. This ultimately affects Parliamentary control as the Parliament can not enforce the accountability of the executive when they defy the accountability relationship.
  • The process of accountability through objective and professional opinion on government’s performance based on CAG’s audit and its examination by PAC and COPU have been significantly weakened. For many years no explanations for excess expenditure are forthcoming in many states and the same budgetary aberrations continue year after year. There is an urgent need to strengthen and revitalise this process.
  • There is scope for PAC and COPU to devote more time to discussion of matters reported by CAG. Advantages of on the spot study may be carefully weighed against the need of timely discussion of important issues of mismanagement and corruption highlighted in CAG’s reports. Term of PAC / COPU needs to be extended beyond one year to develop further expertise and for continuity in approach.
  • In view of huge pendency in discussion of Audit Reports, PAC and COPU should mainly discuss issues of systemic nature and programme performance and results achieved out of tax payers moneys from the observation of CAG rather than the specific cases. This will go a long way to ensure accountability of the executive and contribute to improvement in administration in the light of audit findings.
  • Presently the discussions of these committees are not open to press. If the Parliamentary proceedings can be telecast, there appears to be a case for the meetings of PAC and COPU also to be telecast. In the short run press should be allowed to report on the proceedings of these committees to foster public financial accountability.
  • To improve the quality of scrutiny of expenditure and taxation proposals, the secretariat resources need be strengthened so that they can provide required research support. This is all the more necessary as the DRSCs are to perform other legislative responsibilities in addition to the scrutiny of grants. This leaves them with inadequate time to scrutinise the grants of 3 or 4 departments. Till the tenth Lok Sabha, out of a total of 309 original reports prepared by the DRSCs, 121 pertained to Demand for Grants. As many as 71 Bills apart from several national long term policies were referred to DRSCs during April 1993 to March 19961.
  • The functioning of various committees like Estimate Committee, DRSC, RCC sometimes overlap. It is not uncommon that same department or ministry may be taken up for examination by more than one committee during an year. More effective coordination among these committees could avoid overlap and consequent overload of scrutiny.
  • There is considerable merit in the suggestion of extending the life of DRSCs to make it
    co-terminus with the life of the Parliament. This will provide opportunity to the members to develop expertise and allow continuity and consistency in approach.
  • A more comprehensive acceptance and implementation of DRSC’s Reports is also necessary to avoid wastage of Parliamentary resources over examination and discussion of important financial and other matters and better use of tax payers money.

Budget or Annual Financial statement is the central focus of legislative financial control process. These controls are executed through the control over demands for grants (public expenditure) and raising of taxes. In the matter of raising of resources through taxes, Constitution permits imposition of any tax only with the authority of law. Thus Parliament is the sole authority for imposition of tax. Union Government can borrow or raise loans on the security of the Consolidated Fund of India and the Parliament has the power to fix limits of such borrowings.

(i) Passing of budget.

The macro economic policy, as reflected in the Budget proposals cover the plan priorities approved by the National Development Council and suggested by the Planning Commission, transfer of
non-plan grants recommended by the Finance Commission and other non-plan expenditureproposed by the government.

The demands are presented in the form of grants for various departments, in a summary form, by the Finance department. Subsequently, the administrative departments present Detailed Demands for Grants.

Under the demand for grants, amounts are grouped under ‘Revenue’ section and ‘Capital’ section and also under ‘Charged’ and ‘Voted’. Each grant also shows provisions under plan and non-plan for each major head of accounts. Parliamentary scrutiny of Budget process involves the following stages:

(i) After presentation of Budget a general debate over the budget proposals takes place. At this stage only general points are raised. Oftentimes, the debate moves around the concern over taxation proposals.

(ii) After this, Parliament is adjourned to facilitate the scrutiny of the Grants and taxation proposals through the DRSC who examine the Detailed Demands for Grants and the functioning of the selected schemes.

(iii) Voting for the grants takes places after discussions.

(iv) Passing of the Appropriation Bill provides one more opportunity to discuss the policy and other matters but the amounts already approved by the Parliament can not be disturbed.

With the passing of the Finance Act and Appropriation Act the, pre appropriation control process comes to a formal end.

(ii) Execution of budget.

After the passing of the Appropriation Act and Finance Act, amounts under each Grant are placed at the disposal of the administrative departments for execution of the budget proposals.

There is no formal control of Parliament over the execution of the Budget. However, the mechanism of ‘questions’ raised by the members to obtain information on the ongoing activities, provides opportunity for the Parliament to intervene, if necessary, in any matter including financial and fiscal administration.

Other mechanisms which Parliament uses to ensure that moneys granted are not spent on the purpose not approved, are passing of:

Supplementary grants

Re-appropriation

Token grants

(b) Operational framework of Parliamentary control

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