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 to 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 judgment 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 to ensure that the tax-payer’s money is properly spent. 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.
There is nothing strikingly original in the provisions of the Constitution dealing with the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Such an office (the Auditor-General of India) had already been in existence as an integral part of India’s constitutional machinery since 1919. The idea of the office itself comes from England where it has a history of almost a century.
In India, the Auditor-General received statutory recognition for the first time under the Government of India Act of 1919. Such recognition, however, did not mean complete independence from the Executive.
The Auditor-General was to conduct an audit subject to any general or special orders of the Secretary of State-in-Council and his reports on the Government accounts were to be sent to that authority through the Governor-General.
The Government of India Act of 1935 substantially increased the independence of the Auditor-General by abolishing the control of the Secretary of State and the Auditor-General was required to submit his annual Audit Reports to the respective legislatures through the Government of India and the Provincial Governments.
The framers of the 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.