Legislative Actors’ Resources

   

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

EUOECD
 
Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
10
Czech Rep.
As specified in legislation regarding the rules of procedure of the Chamber of Deputies, Czech parliamentary committees may ask for almost all government documents. Governments usually respect committee requests and tend to deliver the documents on time.
Estonia
Parliamentary committees have the legal right to obtain from the government and other executive agencies the materials and data necessary to draft legal acts and evaluate draft law proposals made by the government. The commission can also invite civil servants from the ministries to participate in commission meeting in order to provide additional information or explain governmental position. In 2017, two special study committees were formed to analyze in depth on the demographic crisis and state reform. Both committees can compel information from state authorities, including financial forecasts and expenditures, related to the topic under investigation.
Finland
Reports drafted by committees provide the basis for legislative decisions. Committees prepare government bills, legislative initiatives, government reports and other matters for handling in plenary sessions. Given these tasks and functions, it follows that the government is expected to report in full its motives for proposing legislation and that committees are able to obtain the desired documents from the government upon request.
Greece
Members of parliament may request the supply of government documents and frequently exercise this right. Documents are normally delivered in full, within one month, from the competent ministry to the parliament. Restrictions apply to documents containing sensitive information on diplomatic, military or national security issues, but even in such cases a competent committee can inspect some classified documents in closed-door sessions. In sum, members of parliament are usually very demanding regarding information and they press authorities to obtain it.
Citations:
The supply of government documents to the parliament is regulated by article 133 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament.
Latvia
The parliament has the right to obtain documents from the government. No problems have been observed in the exercise of this right.
Sweden
Parliamentary committees (or indeed any persons) have the right to review all public documents in Sweden unless they are classified or part of an ongoing decision-making process.

In this respect, the Swedish system leaves very little to be desired. The problem, instead, has been the execution of these rights. In the annual reviews conducted by the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Affairs (KU) during the past several years, the committee has severely criticized the government’s central office (regeringskansliet) for not providing documents, or for being exceedingly slow in doing so. The media, too, has been critical of the government in this respect.
Switzerland
Parliamentary committees, as well as members of parliament, have access to government documents and receive copies of these promptly upon request. Legislators have also electronic access to the majority of government documents.
USA
The legislature’s right to obtain government documents is well established in the U.S. system of government and congressional committees have subpoena power to request documents. However, this power is sometimes limited by claims of executive privilege – a constitutionally recognized entitlement that protects White House and agency internal communications in limited circumstances. In 2013, the White House supplied congressional investigators with more than 100 pages of email messages that had been exchanged between the White House, the State Department and the CIA, in a controversy over allegedly misleading White House statements about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Although the executive branch often withholds classified information from general release to members of Congress, the members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have top-secret clearance enabling them access to sensitive secrets. In any case, for most issues, the information that Congress needs for policymaking or oversight of administration does not fall under any plausible claim of executive privilege or security restriction. In these cases, Congress can obtain almost any information that exists. Within very broad limits, Congress can also ask departments and agencies to gather data or perform studies when it finds existing information to be insufficient.
9
Australia
The legislature has strong powers, deriving from both Section 49 of the constitution and the Parliamentary Privileges Act, that require the executive arm of government to provide parliament with information. As parliamentary bodies, these powers are vested in parliamentary committees. There are only a very few acceptable reasons for refusal. A minister or other member of the executive who refuses to turn over requested documents can be held in contempt of parliament.
Austria
Currently, all parliamentary committees have the power to ask for any kind of document. However, documents deemed “secret” can only be viewed in a special parliamentary room and cannot be copied.

Significant portions in government documents obtained by newly-formed investigative committees were redacted, ostensibly for the purpose of protecting privacy. This resulted in an uproar among members of parliament and demonstrated, that committees are entitled to obtain documents, yet the government can create significant limitations in accessing parts of these documents.
Belgium
Parliamentary committees are de facto able to obtain essentially all documents they need, as long as documents are not deemed highly confidential. The more sensitive areas include domestic and foreign security, in particular regarding the police and intelligence services, for which two special regular parliamentary committees have been set up. These powers become even stronger when a parliamentary committee is set up to initiate a parliamentary investigation. However, this often leads to a strategy of not collecting data on sensitive issues in order to avoid having to disclose sensitive information. This does of course imply that government policymaking takes place somewhat in the dark.
Denmark
Parliament is entitled and granted access to most government documents. There are internal ministry documents, however, that are not made available. This is occasionally criticized by some politicians, especially from the opposition. However, ministers and ministries know that it is politically important to heed parliament requests. Documents may be stamped confidential, but, in general, most committee documents are publicly available.
Citations:
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 1: Institutioner og regulering. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers’ Forlag, 2005.

Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. Oktober 2015. http://www.ft.dk/dokumenter/publikationer/folketinget/haandbog_i_folketingsarbejdet_2011.aspx (accessed 22 October 2014).
France
Committees have free access to all requested documents. However, areas such as national security, the secret service or military issues are more sensitive. The government might be reluctant to pass on information but, worse, could be tempted to use information limitations to cover up potential malpractices. For instance, in the past the PMO had at its disposal substantial amounts of cash that could partially be used for electoral activities of the party in power. No information was available about where the money actually went. In the same vein, it is only since the Sarkozy presidency that the president’s office budget has become transparent and accessible to parliamentary inquiry.
Germany
The German Bundestag is a “working parliament” – that is, parliamentary committees are of great importance in preparing and discussing legislative initiatives. Outside their law preparation activities, they also serve in an oversight role with respect to government ministries. Nonetheless, the government sometimes tries to withhold information. But most documents are made public and can be accessed. In an important ruling on 12 September 2012, the Federal Constitutional Court’s (FCC) Second Senate strengthened the information rights of German parliamentary representatives regarding the European Stability Mechanism Treaty (ESM). Government officials had previously been reluctant to keep the Bundestag informed on this issue, claiming executive secrecy.

The parliamentary control committee and the secret service committee of inquiry had to fight hard to get access to documents and the “Selektorenliste” (list of selectors) to examine whether the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) had illegally spied on citizens, politicians and organizations. In mid-September, the Green party and the Left party attempted to sue the government through the Constitutional Court for its lack of accountability regarding the Selektorenliste. On 15 November 2016, the FCC dismissed the appeal.

In a 7 November 2017 ruling, the FCC again strengthened the information rights of the Bundestag vis-á-vis government.
Citations:
http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/nsa-selektorenliste-101.html

https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2016/bvg16-084.html

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/auskunftsrecht-verfassungsgericht-staerkt-kontrollrechte-des-bundestags-1.3738737

http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2017/bvg17-094.html
Japan
Government documents can be obtained at the discretion of legislative committees. There are typically no problems in obtaining such papers in a timely manner.
Lithuania
Members of parliament have the right to obtain information not only from the government itself but also from various government agencies, enterprises and other public-sector organizations. When carrying out their oversight function, parliamentary committees can request information and relevant documents from ministries and other state institutions. These are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame. There are some restrictions concerning the access of information considered to be sensitive for reasons of state security. In addition, information from ongoing pretrial investigations and other investigations cannot be provided if this could harm the investigations.
New Zealand
The Cabinet Manual defines the right of committees to ask for government documents. All documents have to be delivered in full and within an appropriate time. There are limitations with regard to classified documents.
Citations:
Cabinet Manual: Providing Information to Select Committees: http://cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz/8.66 (accessed October 24, 2015).
Norway
The parliamentary right of access to information is a very strong norm, which most members of the government are very careful not to violate. They thus work to ensure that the parliament is provided with adequate and timely information. Oral proceedings and consultations are sometimes used to supplement written procedures. There are some limitations to access to information rights, for instance, in cases related to security. However, even in these cases, parliament has an extended foreign relations committee which has access to security information.
 
The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
8
Canada
In principle, parliamentary committees have the right to receive government documents in the course of their deliberations, but these may arrive incomplete and redacted because of confidentiality considerations, or too late to enable the committee to make effective use of them.
Chile
Congressional committees or individual deputies can request documents, which must be delivered by the government within legally defined time limits. Those deadlines are generally met, but there are de facto limitations in the exercise of oversight, as the majority party or coalition can block the minority’s request. Until recently, obtaining information from state-owned companies or the Ministry of Finance was difficult.
Italy
Parliamentary committees are comparatively powerful. They can significantly amend legislation and they have extensive oversight powers. Committees also have the right to ask for documents from the government. Delivery of the documents may not always be prompt, but there is no significant evidence that the government fails to comply.
Luxembourg
In general, information flows freely between the government and coalition parties. In the cases where such flows are seen as incomplete, parliamentary questions (questions parlementaires) are a popular and effective way for members of parliament to obtain information from the government or to gain insight into specific topics. Furthermore, the prerogative to conduct parliamentary inquiries (enquête parlementaire), according to Article 64 (in conjunction with Article 70) of the constitution, gives the parliament oversight power over the government. Since 1980, the parliament has established four committees of inquiry (in 1980, 1989, 2003 and 2012).

There is no deliberate withholding of information within the parliament itself, as the opposition parties of today may be tomorrow’s coalition partner. However, a few restrictions exist concerning sensitive issues or classified information. For instance, this has been the case with the scandals over the state’s secret service (Service de renseignement de l’Etat luxembourgeois, SREL). The Parliamentary Oversight Commission for the State Secret Service (Commission de Contrôle parlementaire du Service de Renseignement de l’Etat) oversees the functioning of the SREL on behalf of the Chamber of Deputies.
Citations:
Kirps, Josée. “La passion du secret.” Forum.lu, Feb. 2014, www.forum.lu/pdf/artikel/7796_337_Kirps.pdf. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur le Service de Renseignement de l’Etat. La commission d’enquête sur le Service de renseignement de l’Etat luxembourgeois, 2013. cbiver.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/123656.pdf. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
Slovenia
In Slovenia, parliamentary committees have the right to ask for almost all government documents, and they can discuss any document in sessions either open or closed to the public. However, the Cerar government, similar to previous governments, sometimes delivered draft bills and other documents at the last minute or with considerable delay, thereby infringing on the work of the committees and obstructing public debate on the proposals. Compared to previous governments, there have been more public debates on most important legislation.
South Korea
Parliamentary committees are legally able to obtain the documents they request from the government. The government, including governmental agencies and public institutions, is required to deliver these documents within 10 days of a request from a member of the National Assembly. Documents pertaining to commercial information or certain aspects of national security can be withheld from the parliament. Moreover, problematic issues do arise in the process of requesting documents. For example, because of the frequency of requests from parliamentarians, there have been numerous cases reported in which agency officials have had to work overtime to meet the document requests.

Parliamentarians can also summon the officials concerned as witnesses. However, bureaucrats are sometimes reluctant to offer the documents and information requested in an effort to protect their organizational interests. The inability to override witnesses’ refusal to answer questions remains an issue that must be addressed. Under current law, the National Assembly can ask prosecutors to charge those who refuse to take the witness stand with contempt of parliament. However, this carries only light penalties, such as fines. The National Assembly should work to reform the hearing system to make it a more effective tool in probing cases of national importance.
Spain
The information and documentation requested from the government must be made available within a period not exceeding 30 days and in the manner most suitable to the applicant. If this is not done, “the legally justified reasons preventing the supply of such information” must be provided. This legal margin allows the government to avoid delivering some important documents (e.g., on the grounds of secrecy), or enables it to deliver the documents incompletely or late. Furthermore, although every member of a committee is in principle entitled to request any information or document, they can only do it “with the prior knowledge of their respective parliamentary group.” Access to documents may also vary depending on the ministry. Documents generally arrive on time and in full, but obstacles are occasionally erected.
Citations:
November 2017, Europa Press: “La Audiencia Nacional rechaza enviar documentos a la comisión sobre financiación del PP”
http://www.europapress.es/naci onal/noticia-gurtel-audiencia-nacio nal-rechaza-enviar-documentos-comis ion-financiacion-pp-20171129140500. html
UK
The “Osmotherly Rules,” updated in October 2014, define the rights of select committees to obtain government documents. Although published in a Cabinet Office document, like many internal parliamentary rules, they are informal and cannot be legally challenged. However, documents are rarely held back and will thus be made available to committees. Only in very specific, pre-defined circumstances are documents withheld from select committees. There are occasional disputes with government over the provision of specific information, and committees will then have to order the production of government documents. Their rights are thus not formally limited, but there is sometimes a political struggle between the committee and the government, although the struggle is usually mediated by the fact that the government party also has the majority on the committee, and party-political motives thus rarely come into play. Freedom of Information requests can additionally be used to obtain documents, but this does not include documents that affect national security or public interests. The media reinforce parliamentary scrutiny through their strong influence and the keen interest they take in committee findings that challenge the serving government.
Citations:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/364600/Osmotherly_Rules_October_2014.pdf
7
Bulgaria
Under the Rules of Organization and Procedure of the Bulgarian parliament, parliamentary committees can obtain any documents from any public or private person in the country. A chairperson of a standing committee is obliged to acquire such documents if one-third of the members of the committee ask for them. Thus, on paper, parliamentary committees have full access to government documents. In practice, some documents are withheld from parliament with arguments about confidentiality or national security. While parliamentary committees are entitled to handle classified information and documents, such a demand would require cumbersome formal procedures such as setting up a specific body to investigate the concrete issue, adopting respective rules and procedures, and ensuring confidentiality. The institution of “parliamentary questions” put to the executive also gives individual members of parliament access to the executive branch. In practice, representatives of the executive can delay the execution of these requests, because responsibilities are not clearly specified and sanctions are not defined. There have been numerous instances of such delays. However, parliamentary questions remain an effective and widely used (especially by the opposition) tool for parliamentarians to access government information.
Croatia
According to Article 115 of the Standing Order of the Croatian Parliament (Sabor), any working bodies of the Sabor may “seek a report and data from ministers of state or officials who administer the operations of other state administrative bodies,” and ministers are obliged “to report on issues and affairs within the authority of the ministries or other state administrative bodies, to submit a report on the execution and implementation of laws and other regulations and the tasks entrusted to them, to submit data at their disposal, or data they are obliged to collect and record within the scope of their duties, as well as records and other documents necessary to the work of parliament or its working body, to respond to posed questions.” However, these rights are seldom exercised in practice. The most commonly used supervisory mechanisms are oral or written questions to the government.
Ireland
Parliamentary committees have the power to send for persons, papers and records; to require attendance by ministers in order discuss current policies and proposals for legislation; and to require the attendance of principal officeholders in bodies that are funded by the state. The issue of access to government documents by committees has not been contentious in recent years.

While parliamentary committees were once weak, they have been getting stronger since the 1980s. One comparative ranking of the strength of committee systems in 39 advanced industrial democracies placed Ireland mid-table (Martin 2010).
Citations:
The Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis Final Report January, 2016.
The scope and structure of the Banking Inquiry are set out here:
http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/Relevant-Proposal-to-the-Committees-on-Procedure-and-Privileges-of-Dail-Eireann-and-Seanad-Eireann.pdf

Shane Martin ‘The Committee System,’ in Muiris MacCarthaigh and Maurice Manning (eds, 2010) The Houses of the Oireachtas. Dublin: IPA.
Israel
According to Israel’s basic laws, the executive or appointed officials must attend and provide information to Knesset committees upon request, unless information is considered confidential. However, the law contains no specific provisions for enforcement in cases of disobedience or the provision of insufficient or inaccurate information. Thus, the parliament has only general or disproportionate means of response, such as passing a motion of no confidence or reporting to the Civil Service Commission. These options do not provide a solution to mundane problems, such as receiving unreliable information from the government.

In recent months, several members of parliament have worked to draft a reform initiative involving two components: limiting the amount of private legislation and strengthening the Knesset’s oversight capacity. The reform proposal would enhance Knesset committees’ role in overseeing their corresponding ministries, expand their roles in approving ministry budgets, and give them greater power to summon civil service appointees to public hearings.
Citations:
Fridberg, Chen, “The Knesset committees from an oversight perspective: Chronicle of a failure foretold?,” Studies in Israel’s revival 20 (2010) 49-79: http://in.bgu.ac.il/bgi/iyunim/20/a3.pdf (Hebrew)

Knesset Rules of Procedure, Section H, Chapter 7

Plesner, Yohanan, “There is Still Hope for Knesset Reform,” IDI Website, 10/8/17, https://en.idi.org.il/articles/18582

Zerahia, Zvi, “The treasury is deliberately holding out information from PMs so we can’t supervise it,” TheMarker 7.1.2014: http://www.themarker.com/news/1.2210843 (Hebrew)
Poland
On paper, parliamentary committees have full access to government documents. Members of parliament may demand information from government officials, either in written or verbal form, at the sitting of the Sejm plenary or at a committee meeting. Since the parliamentary elections in 2015, however, it has become more difficult for opposition members of the Sejm to obtain government documents and to receive them in good time. In some cases, the government has also failed to deliver the correct documents.
Portugal
The government is obliged to respond within 30 days to requests for information from the Assembly of the Republic. While there is no data on how it responds specifically to requests from parliamentary committees, delivery of information to requests from members of parliament can be untimely or incomplete. During the second session of the thirteenth legislature, held during the current period under review (15 September 2016 to 19 July 2017), parliamentarians issued 4,782 questions, of which 80% (3,819) were answered. This marks a considerable improvement vis-à-vis the previous review period when 55% of questions were answered.

However, there was a deterioration regarding requests to the central government, with only 47% of these requests being answered during the period under review. This is a decrease of five percentage points compared to the previous review period.

As noted in previous reports, this response rate does not appear to reflect a deliberate attempt to conceal information from the Assembly. In general, it is likely that committee requests are answered more promptly and fully than those made by individual legislators.
Citations:
Divisão de Informação Legislativa e Parlamentar, Assembleia da República,“Atividade Legislativa – XII Legislatura, 1ª Sessão Legislativa,” available online at: http://www.parlamento.pt/actividadeparlamentar/documents/estatisticas_actividade_parlamentar_xiileg/actividadelegislativa_xii_1_(14092012).pdf

Divisão de Informação Legislativa e Parlamentar, Assembleia da República,“Atividade Legislativa – XII Legislatura, 1ª Sessão Legislativa,” available online at: http://www.parlamento.pt/actividadeparlamentar/documents/estatisticas_actividade_parlamentar_xiileg/actividadelegislativa_xii_1_(14092012).pdf

Divisão de Informação Legislativa e Parlamentar, Assembleia da República,“Atividade Legislativa – XII Legislatura, 2ª Sessão Legislativa,” available online at: http://www.parlamento.pt/actividadeparlamentar/documents/estatisticas_actividade_parlamentar_xiileg/actividadelegislativa_xii_2.pdf

Divisão de Informação Legislativa e Parlamentar, Assembleia da República,“Atividade Legislativa – XII Legislatura, 3ª Sessão Legislativa,” available online at: https://www.parlamento.pt/ActividadeParlamentar/Documents/Estatisticas_Actividade_Parlamentar_XIILeg/ActividadeLegislativa_XII_3.pdf

Divisão de Informação Legislativa e Parlamentar, Assembleia da República,“Atividade Legislativa – XII Legislatura, 4ª Sessão Legislativa,” available online at: https://www.parlamento.pt/ActividadeParlamentar/Documents/Estatisticas_Actividade_Parlamentar_XIILeg/ActividadeLegislativa_XII_4.pdf

Divisão de Informação Legislativa e Parlamentar, Assembleia da República,“Atividade Legislativa – XIII Legislatura, 2ª Sessão Legislativa,” available online at: https://www.parlamento.pt/ActividadeParlamentar/Documents/Estatisticas_Actividade_Parlamentar_XIIILeg/ActividadeLegislativa_XIII_2.pdf
Romania
According to Article 111 of Romania’s constitution, “the government and other agencies of public administration shall, within the parliamentary control over their activity, be bound to present any information and documents requested by the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate or parliamentary committees through their respective presidents.” However, this access is limited in case of documents containing classified information, especially with respect to national security and defense issues. Members of parliament also complain about delays in the provision of documents and information.
6
Iceland
The Information Act from 2012 (Upplýsingalög, No. 140/2012) grants standing parliamentary committees the right to request government documents relating to their work, with the exception of classified documents. Exempted documents include: minutes, memos, and other documents from cabinet meetings; letters between the government and experts for use in court cases; and working documents marked for government use only, excluding those containing a final decision about a case or information that cannot be gathered elsewhere. The government can restrict access to documents if it can make a case that there is an exceptional public security risk, such as national security, international relations, or business agreements. The Committee on Foreign Affairs has a special legal status, which allows it to request government documents that would enable it to fulfill its legal obligations. The chair of the committee and the foreign minister can decide to keep the discussions and decisions of the committee confidential. The Budget Committee can also request the government documents it needs to fulfill its legal obligations.

In a case relating to the most infamous telephone call in Icelandic history, the central bank refused to comply with a parliamentary committee request to release the recording or transcript of a telephone conversation, which took place shortly before the 2008 economic collapse, between the prime minister and the central bank governor. This dispute remains unresolved demonstrating that the right of parliamentary committees to request access to information is not the equivalent of a right to obtain information. Further, a leaked transcript of the telephone conversation, reported on national television (RÚV), suggests that the bank may have committed legal violations. Even so, the governing board of the central bank, appointed by parliament and tasked with ensuring the bank operates in accordance with the law, is not known to have discussed the issues arising from this leak as the minutes of its meetings are not open to the public.

An internet newspaper, Kjarninn, sued the central bank in 2017 in an attempt to gain access to the coveted recording of the telephone conversation. Then, all of a sudden, a transcript of the recording was published in Morgunblaðið. The editor of Morgunblaðið is the former central bank governor who, according to the transcript of the telephone conversation, declares to the prime minister that the €500 million loan to Kaupthink Bank just before the financial crash will not be recovered. The legal ramifications of this exposure remain to be seen.
Citations:
The Information Act (Upplýsingalög nr. 142/2012)
Mexico
The constitution invests Congress with significant powers. However, until recently, the independence of Congress was undermined by legislation that blocked congressional members from being immediately re-elected. This ban made congressional members dependent on a few powerful leaders who controlled access to resources. For this political, rather than legal, reason congressional committees voted largely along party lines and legislative scrutiny was generally perfunctory. For example, congressional members are legally entitled to request and scrutinize government documentation under the Freedom of Information Act. While the ban on being immediately re-elected has been abolished, it is too early to assess the effect of this change on legislative scrutiny.
Netherlands
The government has to provide correct information to the States General (according to Article 68 of the constitution). However, this is often done somewhat defensively, in order to protect “ministerial responsibility to parliament” and a “free consultative sphere” with regard to executive communications. Providing the States General with internal memos, policy briefs (e.g., on alternative policy options), interdepartmental policy notes or advice from external consultants is viewed as infringing on the policy “intimacy” necessary for government-wide policy coordination, as well as on the state’s interests. As political scientist Hans Daalder has noted: “In practice, it is the ministers that decide on the provision of information requested.”
Citations:
Guido Enthoven (2011), Hoe vertellen we het de Kamer? Een empirisch onderzoek naar de informatierelatie tussen regering en parlement, Eburon

R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: 174-182.
 
The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
5
Hungary
Traditionally, parliamentary committees in Hungary enjoyed far-reaching access to government documents. However, the new standing orders of the Hungarian parliament, as adopted under the 2012 Act on Parliament, do not regulate the access of parliamentary committees to public documents. The Orbán governments have used their parliamentary majority to restrict access to public documents, even for discussion within parliamentary committees.
Slovakia
Parliamentary committees have the formal right to ask for almost all government documents. The main limits stem from the logic of party competition. Smer-SD members of parliament are highly disciplined and do not support opposition members of parliament in their activities. As a result, the committees’ access to government documents is limited.
Turkey
According to Article 98 of the constitution, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey exercises its supervisory power over the government by posing written and oral questions, conducting inquiries, sponsoring general debates, offering motions of censure or starting parliamentary investigations (Articles 96-113 of the Rules of Procedure). Parliamentary committees or commissions may ask the ministries to provide any information relevant to their sphere of duty (Article 41 of the Rules of Procedure). However, in practice some parliamentary inquiry committees that deal with security, military or corruption issues have not been able to collect information from the relevant authorities. In fact, several motions of inquiry on sensitive issues for the government were rejected by parliamentary the votes dominated by the ruling party. During the review period, an inquiry into the so-called Paradise Papers affair submitted by the HDP was rejected. Some invited public officials, mainly military officers, have not attended parliamentary inquiry committee meetings. General Hulusi Akar, the chief of the Turkish General Staff, and Hakan Fidan, head of the Turkish Intelligence Service (MİT), testified before a parliamentary inquiry committee into the 15 July coup, but only by providing a written submission on 29 May 2017.
Citations:
Rules of Procedure of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, http://global.tbmm.gov.tr/docs/rules_of_procedure_en.pdf (accessed 5 November 2014)
“Paradise Papers’ inquiry rejected at Turkish Parliament, CHP to initiate censure motion,” Hürriyet Daily News, 15 November 2017, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/paradise-papers-inquiry-rejected-at-turkish-parliament-chp-to-initiate-censure-motion-122475 (accessed 1 November 2017)
Darbe Komisyonu, Hulusi Akar ve Hakan Fidan’ı dinlemeden kapatıldı,” Cumhuriyet, 3 January 2017, http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/654848/Darbe_Komisyonu__Hulusi_Akar_ve_Hakan_Fidan_i_dinlemeden_kapatildi.html# (accessed 1 November 2017)
“Hulusi Akar’a sorulan 10 soru ve cevapları,” 30 May 2017, https://www.memurlar.net/haber/671262/hulusi-akar-a-sorulan-10-soru-ve-cevaplari.html (accessed 1 November 2017)
“İşte MİT’in Meclis’e gönderdiği 15 Temmuz raporu,” 26 May 2017, https://tr.sputniknews.com/turkiye/201705261028619119-mit-meclis-15temmuz-raporu/ (accessed 1 November 2017)
“Ruling party eventually nominates deputies for corruption commission,” Hürriyet Daily News, 26 June 2014, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ruling-party-eventually-nominates-deputies-for-corruption-commission.aspx?pageID=449&nID=68329&NewsCatID=338 (accessed 5 November 2014)
Merve Tahiroğlu, Turkey’s Inquiry into Corruption Charges Will Change Little, 12 May 2014, http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/turkeys-inquiry-into-corruption-charges-will-change-little/#sthash.IY3PjmJl.dpuf (accessed 5 November 2014)
4
Cyprus
The government and the broader public administration have no constitutional obligation to make documents available to the parliament. In practice, parliamentary oversight is performed by addressing questions to line ministers or other office holders on specific issues. Also, ad hoc investigative committees may ask for more in-depth information.

The Law on the Deposition of Data and Information to Parliamentary Committees gives committees the right to ask for official information and data. However, this law is cautiously formulated; under its terms, officials attending a committee hearing are obliged to tell the truth or to provide genuine documents. They are not allowed to hide information or documents. Judicial measures for misinforming or misguiding a committee are possible.

Critically, attending a meeting if invited is not made mandatory by this law. Thus, obtaining documents is dependent on the summoned officials’ willingness to attend a hearing, as well on minister’s discretionary power to approve a document’s release. This is particularly true when the issue under examination is a sensitive one.
Citations:
1. Law on the deposition of data and information to the House of Representatives and parliamentary committees 21(I)/1985 http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/1985_1_21/full.html
Malta
Parliamentary committees may request documents from the government, though the government is not obliged to comply. For example, the government could refuse to release documents, because the documents could contain commercially sensitive information or it is too soon to make the information public. The 2015 parliamentary ombudsman report highlighted the need to publish government documents and agreements and for limits of the state’s duty to disclose. The ombudsman also stated that in some cases non-disclosure by the executive is totally unjustified citing the example of parliament not being privy to commercial agreements entered into by the public administration. The ombudsman’s 2018 plan again stressed the need for government transparency and accountability. The freedom of information act must be strengthened.
Citations:
Said Pullicino, J (ed) 2015 The State’s Duty to Inform Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman
Annual Report 2015 Parliamentary Ombudsman
How the rule of law is being undermined Times of Malta 23/10/17
3
---
---
 
Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
2
---
---
1
---
---
Back to Top