PAC to focus on India-China border roads, other defence issues this year

The PAC has also selected 17 subjects related to the railway ministry for current financial year
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has selected 29 subjects (about 25 per cent of 114 subjects) related to the ministry of defence for in-depth examination for the financial year 2020-21. This is an unusually high number for the defence subjects.

In 2019-20, the PAC had picked up 107 subjects. Of these, only 15 (around 14 per cent) are related to the ministry of defence.

The high number reflects the concerns over India’s defence preparedness in the context of recent Chinese intrusions in Ladakh, sources said.

The PAC is a key parliamentary committee which scrutinises reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). In the past, it has taken up many issues such  as the 2G spectrum scandal.

Usually, a third of the subjects that the PAC selects relate to the finance ministry. This year, as well as the previous year, were no exceptions.

For the financial year 2020-21, 35 subjects relate to the finance ministry, while in 2019-20, 28 were related to the ministry.

The PAC has also selected 17 subjects related to the railway ministry for current financial year.

At the beginning of its term every year, the PAC makes a selection of ‘audit paragraphs’ included in various reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for in-depth examination.

In addition, the committee may also select one or more suo moto subjects for in-depth examination during the year. These subject/s are over and above those contained in the CAG reports.

However, at its meeting on Friday, the PAC had failed to reach a consensus on examining the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, or the new PM-CARES fund set up to deal with the crisis.

The committee chairman, Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, appealed to members to arrive at a consensus on the subject and act with their conscience with national interest in mind, and not vote on party lines.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party members, which are in a majority in the 22-member committee, stalled Chowdhury’s proposal.

Some of the 114 subjects that the PAC has selected for in-depth examination this year, include performance audits on construction of India-China border roads by the Border Roads Organisation, agriculture crop insurance schemes and the implementation of the prime minister’s employment generation programme.

It will also examine audit paragraphs on “accidents of ships and submarines in Indian Navy”, “risky exploitation of Sindhughosh class submarines due to delay in installation of periscopes” and several paragraphs related to the functioning of Ordnance Factory Boards.

The committee will also examine audit reports on recapitalisation of Public Sector Banks, rejuvenation of River Ganga (Namami Gange), accounting of assets in Indian Railways and Ujjwala Yojana.

It will examine paragraphs related to International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, Indian Council of Medical Research and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

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