The provision for independent audit is an essential ingredient of parliamentary democracy. The fundamental basis of parliamentary system of Government, as we have already seen, is the responsibility of the Executive towards the Legislature for all its actions. The Legislature will be able to enforce this executive responsibility only if it is competent to scrutinise the activities of the Executive, and exercise on each of them its judgement in an appropriate manner. There are certain activities of the Executive which can easily be scrutinised by anyone, while others are difficult for a group of laymen to scrutinise. Checking of accounts and assessing the soundness or otherwise of the financial transactions of the Executive is a technical job which falls in the latter category, and Parliament, composed as it is of laymen in general, is not a competent and suitable instrument for making such scrutiny.
Yet, it is a function of Parliament to scrutinise the financial dealings of the Government and ensure that the taxpayers’ money is spent properly. Parliament needs the assistance of an expert for this purpose and it is in this context that the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General becomes an essential ingredient of parliamentary democracy. For, it is the Comptroller and Auditor General who, through his expert advice, enables Parliament to discharge this function efficiently. By performing such an important function, the Comptroller and Auditor General makes himself an indispensable instrument in the proper working of a parliamentary government. It is this important role that makes his office one of the four pillars of our democratic Constitution, the other three being the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
The framers of our Constitution, realising the importance of an independent agency for audit under parliamentary democracy, made the Comptroller and Auditor General fully independent so that he could discharge his functions efficiently and fearlessly.
Independence of the Comptroller and
Under Article 148, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India is to be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal, just as a Judge of the Supreme Court is appointed. He can be removed from office only in a like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court. Every person appointed to be the Comptroller and Auditor General, before he enters upon his office, has to make and subscribe before the President an oath or affirmation in a form prescribed for the purpose. His salary and other conditions of service may be determined by Parliament. But once appointed, neither his salary nor his rights in respect of leave of absence, pension or age of retirement can be varied to his disadvantage. The Comptroller and Auditor General receives the same salary as that of a Judge of the Supreme Court. After retirement or resignation from office, he is not eligible for any office of profit under the Government. The administrative expenses of the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, including the salaries, etc., of the office staff, are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India.
Duties and Powers
Articles 149 and 150 deal with the powers and duties of the Comptroller and Auditor General. According to Article 149, Parliament is empowered to prescribe the powers and duties of the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to the accounts of the Union and the States and of any other authority or body established either by the Union or the States. Accordingly, Parliament passed an Act in 1972 dealing with these matters. It upholds the independence of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and enables him to work effectively and efficiently. According to Article 150, the Comptroller and Auditor General has the power to prescribe the form and manner in which the accounts of the Union and the States shall be kept, subject to approval of the President.
The Comptroller and Auditor General is expected to discharge three main functions :
(1) to audit the Government’s expenditure;
(2) to see that the financial rules and orders which have a bearing on Governmental expenditure are obeyed; and
(3) to satisfy himself that those who sanction expenditure have the power to do so.
However, the most important function of the Comptroller and Auditor General, though it is not one which forms part of his statutory obligations, is to examine the accounts from the standpoint of economy and to draw the attention of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to cases of apparent wastage and extravagance. Wherever a parliamentary system of government prevails, this is considered to be the most important function of this office.
Under Article 151, the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General relating to the accounts of the Union are submitted to the President. Those relating to the accounts of the States are submitted to the Governors. These reports are laid before Parliament and the State Legislatures, respectively.
The service rendered by the Comptroller and Auditor General is of inestimable value to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers. Audit is the watchdog of the finances of the nation and the Comptroller and Auditor General is the supreme overseer of the Government’s financial activities on behalf of Parliament. In a country like India where public expenditure is increasing at a fast pace year after year, there is scope both for the widening and for the intensifying of the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General for the better realisation of the democratic ideals embodied in the Constitution as also to pinpoint cases of apparent wastage and extravagance.