The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) lobby for a separate budget fell short of hands supporting the move to include it as one of the recommendations to the 2018-19 national budget.

This was the highlight of discussion on economic and finance committee’s report on the national budget that ensued for two days.

PAC member, Choida Jamtsho said the PAC has its own rules of procedure by virtue of being a committee originating from Constitutional mandate, unlike other committees that function based on terms of reference.

Until 2017-18 fiscal year, he said there used to be standalone budget for the PAC. “From this year, the PAC budget has vanished,” he said seeking clarification from the finance committee who reviewed the budget report.

The Constitution states that Parliament shall appoint a five member Public Accounts Committee, comprising members of Parliament who are reputed for their integrity, to review and report on the annual audit report to Parliament for its consideration or on any other report presented by the Auditor General. Committee members consist of members from both the houses and is a joint committee.

Choida Jamtsho said the PAC has appealed in writing to the Speaker and finance committee. However, it was neither in the committee’s recommendation nor in the report.

The finance committee’s chairperson, Kinley Wangchuk said that if separate budget is allocated to the PAC, other committees would also start demanding separate budget since its responsibility is no different than other committees of the house.

The finance minister reminded the house that the current budget of Nu 29B has been passed by the last Parliament and the recently proposed budget is only for capital expenditure for six months (January to June). The PAC’s budget is current expenditure.

Following an extensive debate on Friday, the speaker directed the committee to re-review the issue. This was one of the new recommendations that was discussed yesterday.

The finance committee’s recommendation to merge the PAC budget along with funds for other committees under the National Assembly for now has been unanimously endorsed by show of hands.

The Constitution also empowers the Parliament to appoint committees to carry out the business of Parliament.

Another recommendation of the committee was for the government to formulate a thumb rule for appropriation to annual general reserve and submit it in the second Session. The house, with show of hands, unanimously endorsed this recommendation. Members also submitted that expenditure statements should also clearly account the utilization of the allocation under general reserves.

The recommendation to allocate disaster management fund directly under the Department of the Disaster Management and 20 dzongkhags to enable quicker responses to disasters situations was shot down. However, a clear procedure for request and release of fund in times of disaster by the finance ministry was suggested. This recommendation was endorsed.

While there is unanimous support endorsing the budget of Nu 47.69B for the 2018-19, members will vote for the Bill today.

Tshering Dorji