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Legislative Control over Administration

LEGISLATIVE CONTROL AND ACCOUNTABILITY – The legislature exercises general power of ‘ direction,supervision and control of Public administration ‘ as per Willoughby. Through budgetary review and other devices of investigation it keeps a check on them. The bureaucrat is shielded for his actions by the minister through the policy of ministerial responsibility to the legislature.

However, there are many means by the legislature to enforce responsibility in the executive,which are:

a) Control on delegated legislation: Normally the legislature is entrusted with the job of making laws but in complex and stressful conditions of the modern society,the State is caught up with many things at one time and is not able to concentrate and study a particular issue properly leads to a situation of delegated legislation or delegation(giving) of some of its law making powers to the administrative authorities.However,the administrative authorities are strictly subordinate or under the terms of the statute of the delegation and is subject to judicial review if it violated the terms of conditions of the agreement and its validity can be measured as well.
Delegated legislation has become a necessary evil as nowadays matters brought before the legislature to make laws are highly technical and usually the legislators do not possess such specialist knowledge and so lay down the general principles(basic ideas/rules) and leave the technical details to be sorted out to the administration to make the rules through the process of delegated legislation. It brings in flexibility and is immensely helpful in times of emergencies.
The legislature should clearly;y spell out the limit of the power delegated so that there is control maintained. The delegation should function under the rules and regulations of the agreement made between the legislature and them.It should be transparent and public should be allowed to participate. Judicial review is a must for the smooth and legal functioning of the delegated legislation.

b) President’s speech: Addressing both the Houses of Parliament before starting every new session of the parliament and also on other occasions aims to broadly and clearly read out the policies and activities of the executive in the time immediately ahead. General discussion is then held regarding the president’s speech and this gives an opportunity to the parliamentarians to appreciate or criticise the administration for doing or not doing their duties. President’s speech is a means to bring in the public’s voice in the parliament and not to coerce the parliamentarians as they follow the party guidelines.

c) Financial control: Parliament exercises control over the finance and funds given to administration for their various activities.
In detail:
i) Budget discussion: Before the financial year begins there is an ‘annual financial statement’ called the ‘Budget’ that is laid down before the houses of parliament. After that the general discussion takes place on it and all doubts are sought to be cleared. Then there is a voting done to pass it and then the funds are granted. So it is not an easy procedure to get funds.

ii) Audit Report: The CAG,an independent agency, audits all the accounts of income and expenditure of the govt at centre as well as States and causes to lay down the same before the parliament as well as legislatures of different states through the president and governor of respective states respectively to be reviewed and hold accountable the concerned people.

iii) Reports of the Estimates Committee and Public Accounts Committee of Parliament: The parliament appoints these committees from amongst themselves through voting and consensus. The PAC scrutinises the CAG’s report and also reviews the financial transactions of governmental departments. Then there is an audit report compiled by the PAC that is presented for discussion and questioning before the House. The Estimates committee makes recommendations for improving organisation,securing economy and providing guidance and alternative policies and examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of the policy implied in the estimates in the presentation of their estimates.

d) Other forms of Legislative Control: 
i) Question hour – one hour,that is 11 a.m to 12 p.m. of every parliament day is reserved for questions where around 30-40 oral questions are asked normally and then there are supplementary questions along with the original question that helps cross examine the minister. It helps the public attention to focus on a particular issue and avoids ministerial and bureaucratic arrogance from creeping in.\

ii) Half an hour,short discussions,Calling attention motion – The half an hour discussion is subsequent to the question hour when there is dissatisfaction regarding a particular answer given by the concerned minister and so there is more time given to extract relevant information and ventilate public grievance,etc. Short discussions needs prior notice to the speaker and is of a matter of urgent public importance and the govt. has to reply. No voting takes place here and not more than two hours in a day can be devoted to this. The Calling Attention Motion is a tool used for drawing the govt’s attention to a serious policy administration/implementation issue and the govt has to answer immediately once the motion is admitted by the speaker of the house or it may ask for time to prepare the answer if thorough detailing and understanding is required.

iii) Zero hour discussion: It happens after the question hour that is 12 p.m. and since 12 p.m. is also called zero hour therefore it is named ‘Zero Hour’. Here upto five members are allowed by the Speaker to raise matters of public importance under rule 377(If in the opinion of the Speaker, any notice contains words, phrases or expressions which are argumentative, unparliamentary, ironical, irrelevant, verbose, or otherwise inappropriate, he may, in his discretion, amend such notice before it is circulated ) of the rules of parliamentary procedure.

iv) Adjournment debates: On intimation of an urgent matter for debate,the normal business of the House is adjourned and the debate on the topic ensues.

v) No-Confidence Motion: Also called censure motion. It is raised by a member or members when they express a lack of confidence in the govt for any reason.If the motion is allowed by the Speaker then the debate is held and at the end of it a vote of confidence is sought by the govt. failing which the entire cabinet/govt. has to resign thus leading to formation of a new govt.

vi) Debates on Legislation: Normal business of legislation where new laws are enacted or amendments are sought to existing laws.

e) Parliamentary Committees: Estimates and Parliament Accounts Committee we have already discussed so now we will discuss other relevant ones:
i) Committee on Assurances – It undertakes scrutiny of promises,assurances,undertakings,etc. given by the Ministers from time to time on the House floor and reports on: to the extent that they have been implemented and whether it has fulfilled the minimum conditions of its purpose. Thus making the Ministers wary of their promises and efficiently perform their duties through the administration.

ii) Committee in Subordinate Legislation – It controls and scrutinises the govt activities regarding administrative delegation of legislative powers.

So as we can see that the legislature keeps a stronghold on the govt as well as administration in every minute way.
Now, lets see how these are limited due to various reasons mentioned below:
1) Lack of time,staff and expertise and technical knowledge to exert effective control in the most meaningful areas.
2) No sustained measure of control and surveillance.
3) Imperial or rigid mindset of administrators and huge public illiteracy.
4) business groups lobbying.
5) Seniority instead of merit given preference for promotion of bureaucrats thus not letting them do their work with vigour and new ideas.
6) Declaration of emergency cuts their hands off.
7) Govt. bills to become laws out shadow private member’s bills which are mostly for the public cause.
8) Funds are not provided many a times as the legislature lacks technical knowledge and is not able to understand the need by the executive for excess grants.
9) Parliament cannot raise money or any tax unless executive demands it but can only increase or reduce those demands.

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