Govts doling out freebies; debate needed on balancing welfare and development objectives: Naidu

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday called for a wider debate on freebies for harmonising welfare obligations with developmental needs and urged the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to examine this aspect to enable wider discussion.

Underlining that Parliament should meet for a minimum of 100 days and state legislatures for at least 90 days every year, Naidu said that there should be a political consensus on this issue.

Naidu was speaking at an event in the Central Hall of Parliament to mark 100 years of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that was also attended by President Ram Nath Kovind, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and the committee chairman and Congress leader of Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

Noting that the PAC examines public expenditure to find out irregularities, Kovind said the parliamentary committee not only looks at it from the legal perspective but also from the “point of view of the economy, prudence, wisdom and propriety”.

“It (PAC) has no other objective but to bring to notice cases of waste, loss, corruption, extravagance, inefficiency. If more paise out of every rupee coming from honest taxpayers are reaching those in need and also for nation-building initiatives, the PAC and its members have played a large role in the process,” Kovind said.

Stating that the main responsibility of democratic institutions is to make the government accountable and transparent to the people, Lok Sabha Speaker Birla noted that the parliamentary committees have contributed significantly in making this possible through their functions.

The parliamentary committees, which are like mini parliament, are also seen as effective platforms to solve the problems of the people and fulfillment of their expectations, Birla said.

In his address, Naidu suggested that the PAC examine the utilisation of resources from a socio-economic perspective to check wastages and called for a wider debate on doling out freebies.

“We are all alive to the present scenario of the governments indulging in doling out freebies for obvious reasons. While ensuring the welfare and social security of the needy people is an important obligation of the governments, it is time that there is a wider debate on harmonising the welfare and development objectives.

“Since PAC has to examine the effectiveness of resource use in terms of socio-economic outcomes, it may be in order for the Committee to examine the issue,” the Rajya Sabha chairman said.

PAC chairman Chowdhury said it is the function of the committee to ascertain that the money granted by Parliament has been spent by the government “within the scope of the demand”.

“Over the decades, the examination of accounts by the PAC accomplishes the aim of enforcing public accountability in the transactions of government business. And in this manner, the committee contributes towards maintaining the standard of efficiency and financial propriety in the running of the administration,” the Congress leader said.

Pointing to the scope of wasteful expenditure and misutilisation of scarce resources, Naidu recalled former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi saying about 35 years back that out of every rupee spent, only 16 paise went to the people.

Noting that the audit review is a core function of PAC, Naidu also suggested that it may be re-designated as Public Accounts and Audit Committee (PA and AC).

Naidu also expressed his anguish over members not attending the parliamentary committee meetings and said that parliament should function for 100 days and state legislative assemblies for 90 days every year.

There should be a political consensus on this, he said.

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