Legislative Actors’ Resources


Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
A total of 15 permanent special parliamentary committees along with the Grand Committee prepare government bills, legislative initiatives, government reports and other matters for plenary sessions. Reforms of the committee system in the early 1990s aimed to improve parliamentary committees’ alignment with ministry responsibilities. These reforms have been highly successful and committees are now thematically bound within the scope of a corresponding ministry. The Grand Committee is in practice a committee for the handling of EU-related matters. In May 2017, an earlier merger of two ministerial chairs (work and livelihood as well as justice) was found to be less functional and was dissolved. To cope with the workload, each government party added one minister, enlarging the cabinet from 14 to 17 ministers.
The number of parliamentary committees exceeds the number of government departments (ministries). Partially this is because there are a number of committees concerned with internal matters of parliament, such as parliamentary privileges, procedure and publications. In general, the task area of each “externally oriented” parliamentary committee is confined to one government department, but some government departments have more than one committee monitoring their activities. Usually, the demarcation between task areas of committees that oversee the same department is clear and does not create problems of non-cohesive action by parliament.
For the last several parliamentary terms, Bulgaria has maintained standing parliamentary committees that closely follow the structure of the Council of Ministers. Whenever a parliamentary committee covers areas under the competencies of more than one ministry, these areas are typically closely related – for instance, foreign affairs and defense, youth and sports, or economy and tourism. As of 2017, 16 parliamentary committees oversee the same areas as 17 ministries, with the ministries of economy and tourism overseen by one standing committee. Only the newly created Ministry for Bulgaria’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2018 is not covered by a committee.
Czech Rep.
The parliamentary rules of procedure do not prescribe a particular distribution of subject areas among committees. Instead, distribution is based on custom, tradition and ad hoc decisions by the Chamber of Deputies and its organizational committee. In the current term, there are 14 ministries and 18 parliamentary committees. Fourteen of the 18 parliamentary committees “shadow” governmental ministries. Four additional committees fulfill specific parliamentary roles (organization, mandate and immunity, petitions, control). However, there is not an exact match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries. The Economic Committee covers the agendas of two ministries, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Transportation. The Committee for European Affairs is dedicated to EU affairs and to the oversight of EU legislation, part of the agenda of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Legislative Council, and cooperates with the European Parliament and the parliaments of other EU member states. The fact that there is not an exact match between the portfolio of ministries and parliamentary committees has not infringed on parliamentary oversight. If necessary, parliamentary committees may establish subcommittees and their number is not limited. In the period under review, there were 48 subcommittees in the Chamber of Deputies. The number of subcommittees per committee varied from zero to seven; the average number was 2.66.
There are 11 standing committees in the parliament that by and large match the structure of government, which is also composed of 11 ministries. In addition to task areas that correspond to ministry portfolios, there is also a European Union Affairs Committee that monitors the country’s EU policy. Legal affairs are split between two permanent committees, the Constitutional Committee and the Legal Affairs Committee. Cultural and educational affairs are both addressed by the Cultural Affairs Committee. This may imply a work overload, as both education and social policy have been subject to regular and complex reforms.

All parliamentarians belong to one or more standing committee, which means each committee has about 10 members. The working schedule of the standing committees is established by the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act; committees’ work sessions are scheduled three days per week, for a total of 12 hours. Considering the recent establishment of two new study committees, the workload of several MPs has increased and some have voiced concerns about unreasonable fragmentation under scarce resources.
In general, the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries coincide. However, this is not always the case since the Basic Law provides for the establishment of several committees that do not have a ministerial counterpart (including the Committee on the European Union; the Petitions Committee; the Parliamentary Control Panel). Furthermore, several committees sometimes deal with matters that are within the responsibility of a single ministry (e.g., the Committee on Internal Affairs and the Sports Committee both monitor activities performed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior), and a single committee sometimes deals with matters that are not clearly assigned to a single ministry. Nonetheless, parliamentary committees’ most important policy areas fully coincide with those of the ministries, enabling effective monitoring.
The Diet’s standing committees (17 in both chambers) closely correspond to the sectoral responsibility of the government’s major ministries. Indeed, the areas of committee jurisdiction are defined in this manner. The portfolios of the ministers of state cover special task areas and are in some cases mirrored by special committees (e.g., consumer affairs). Special committees can and have been set up to deal with current (or recurring) issues. In the Lower House, there are currently nine such committees, for example, on regional revitalization.
There is considerable overlap between the organization of the parliament and the government. Though this arrangement is not perfect, it is broad enough to enable parliamentarians to hold ministers to account. Cross-cutting issues regarding EU and European Economic Area concerns have historically posed some challenges.
The Assembly of the Republic has 12 permanent committees, each with a policy focus. Each committee can create sub-committees to work on a specific area or project. Creating a sub-committee requires the prior authorization of the president following consultation with the Conference of Presidents of the Parliamentary Commission. Further, each commission can also create working groups for even more specialized tasks.

In addition, and of greater importance for monitoring government ministries, the assembly can create ad hoc commissions of inquiry. Their specific purpose is to monitor whether the government or a ministry is complying with the constitution and laws, and the policies of the government. These ad hoc commissions of inquiry have investigative power and judicial authority.
In the third Fico government, the Slovak National Council had more parliamentary committees than there were ministries (by a ratio of 19 to 13), and two committees (the European Affairs Committee and the Committee for Human Rights and Minorities) had several ministerial counterparts. However, committees have covered all ministerial task areas and the control responsibilities for major issues have not been split; thus, the division of subject areas among committees has not hampered parliamentary oversight of ministries.
South Korea
The task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries mostly correspond. There are 16 standing committees that examine bills and petitions falling under their respective jurisdictions and perform other duties as prescribed by relevant laws. With the exception of the House Steering Committee and the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, the task areas of these parliamentary committees correspond with the ministries. As a consequence of the strong majoritarian tendency of the political system, committees dominated by the governing parties tend to be softer on the monitoring of ministries, whereas committees led by opposition parliamentarians are more confrontational. However, in general, the legislature is a “committee parliament” and the committees are quite effective and efficient.
The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, http://korea.na.go.kr/int/org_06.jsp
Croissant, Aurel 2014. Das Politische System Südkoreas, in: Derichs, Claudia/Heberer, Thomas (Hrsg.), Die politischen Systeme in Ostasien, 3., überarbeitete Auflage, Wiesbaden (i.E.).
There is a high degree of congruence between government departments and parliamentary committees, but no perfect overlap. This is of course no coincidence. The configuration of government departments is more flexible than that of parliamentary committees, which has undergone very few changes over the last several decades. Ensuring that the committee system matches the GO’s organization in departments is essential to the efficiency of both institutions. Furthermore, the GO and the parliament (Riksdag) staff have regular meetings to ensure that the parliament and individual committees are not overloaded with government bills, but that there is a steady flow of bills across the year.
Under the present government, there are 11 ministries and 12 (fixed) parliamentary committees (vaste kamercommissies). Only the prime minister’s Department of General Affairs lacks an analogous dedicated parliamentary committee. There are also fixed committees for interdepartmental policymaking on aggregate government expenditure, European affairs and foreign trade, and development aid. Parliamentary committees usually have 25 members, representing all political parties with seats in the States General; they specialize in the policy issues of their dedicated departments and inform their peers (i.e., tell them how to vote as part of the party voting-discipline system). There are approximately 1,700 public and non-public committee meetings per year.
Commissies (tweedekamer.nl, consulted 6 November 2014)
The structure of committees in the House and Senate largely reflects the structure of the executive branch. When deviations occur, the adverse effect on the ability of the House and Senate to monitor executive activities and performance is modest. But there are also effects on the burdens of oversight for the agencies. Agencies will sometimes face hearings and investigations from several committees from both chambers that have jurisdiction over an agency or program. Indeed, committees compete for the publicity that comes with investigating a highly salient topic. Because members of Congress develop large stakes in monitoring and influencing particular programs, the structure of the congressional committee system often is a serious barrier to reorganization of the executive branch. In financial regulatory reform, for example, committee jurisdiction stood in the way of organizational reform because the proposed abolition of the Office of Thrift Supervision would have resulted in a committee losing its jurisdiction.
The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
Though parliamentary committees outnumber ministries, the task areas of parliamentary committees are more or less identical to the tasks of the ministries with only minor exceptions. The National Council’s General Committee enjoys a kind of overall competence, including deciding the government’s position within the European Council.
The number of parliamentary committees in the Chamber of Deputies is slightly larger than the number of ministries. Eleven permanent committees address key policy areas that are largely aligned with ministerial portfolios (such as defense, justice, budget or external affairs). Other committees can be more specific than the ministry (such as committees created in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal or on nuclear safety) or instead are meant to be broader when dealing with cross-cutting issues (there has been committees on the financial crisis and on constitutional reforms, for example). Committees are thus largely able to monitor ministries, but the head of a given ministry is accountable only to his or her minister.
List and functioning of commissions: https://www.lachambre.be/kvvcr/pdf_sections/pri/fiche/fr_12_02.pdf
There are currently 23 standing or permanent committees of the House of Commons and 18 standing committees of the Senate. Committees in the house and Senate frequently have overlapping mandates. The previous Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper had 39 ministers, while the cabinet of the current Liberal government under Justin Trudeau only has 31 members. There are more ministries than committees with considerable variation in the number of ministries over time. However, since some cabinet positions (e.g., the leaders in the House of Commons and the Senate as well as the President of The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada) have no corresponding department and some ministers (e.g., the Minister for International Cooperation) are heads of agencies under the umbrella of a department run by another minister, the number of government departments is currently 19. There is, therefore, nearly a one-to-one relationship between the number of house committees and departments. Parliamentary committees are thus largely capable of monitoring departments.
In the current parliamentary term, the number of committees has substantially exceeded the number of ministries. However, this discrepancy stems largely from the existence of committees that deal with internal parliamentary affairs such as the Credentials and Privileges Committee, Interparliamentary Cooperation Committee, and Petitions and Appeals Committee. The task areas of the other parliamentary committees largely match those of the ministries, thus enabling an effective monitoring.
The committee structure largely corresponds to the structure of ministries. The Ministry of Social Affairs, for instance, corresponds to the social affairs committee in the parliament (Folketinget). The Ministry of Taxation corresponds to the fiscal affairs committee in the assembly. Other committees, for instance, deal with energy, defense, culture, environment, health care and education, and have strong ties to the applicable minister.

A few committees do not have a direct parallel, such as the European Affairs Committee. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for coordinating EU policy, the European Affairs committee will have consultations (samråd) with all ministers that take part in EU council meetings, and seek a mandate for upcoming negotiations in the council. This may create internal coordination problems in the parliament, between the European Affairs committee and the committees dealing with the substance of EU legislation (fagudvalg).
Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. Oktober 2015. http://www.ft.dk/dokumenter/publikationer/folketinget/haandbog_i_folketingsarbejdet_2011.aspx (Accessed 22 Oktober 2014).

Finn Laursen, “The Role of National Parliamentary Committees in European Scrutiny: Reflections based on the Danish Case,” in Katrin Auel and Arthur Benz, eds. The Europeanisation of Parliamentary Democracy. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006, pp. 110-125.
The tasks of committees and ministries mostly coincide. However, there are a few cases where more than one ministry is overseen by a single committee (for instance, this happens with the Presidency of the Council and the Ministry of the Interior, for the Ministries of Cultural Affairs and Education, and for the Ministries of the Environment and Public Works). Parliamentary committees have instruments at their disposal enabling the effective monitoring of ministry activity.

Committees meet frequently and their members are assisted by highly qualified technical personnel. However, parliamentarians are not always interested in fully exploiting these possibilities. Often, they prefer to concentrate on issues with high media visibility or of local relevance rather than on the more important administrative processes taking place far from the spotlight.
There is extensive congruence between the current structure of 15 parliamentary committees and the primary areas of competence of Lithuania’s 14 ministries. The recent establishment of a cultural committee and the abolishment of a committee on information further increased congruence between the parliamentary committees and government ministries. However, there are a few mismatches. On the one hand, some ministries (Economy, Transport and Communications) and other state institutions are monitored by a single Economics committee. On the other hand, there are several horizontal parliamentary committees (including the committees on Audit, European Affairs, and Human Rights). The parliament also has several standing commissions, some of which are related to policy areas assigned to the Lithuanian ministries (especially the energy commission, the most active of these bodies). Thus, the composition of parliamentary committees allows government policy to be monitored on both a sectoral and horizontal basis.

Committees meet on a regular basis, but the bulk of committee activities are related to the consideration of draft legislation. The workload of individual committees in the legislative process varies substantially, with the committees on legal affairs, state administration and local authorities, social affairs and labor, and budget and finance accounting for about 55% of the legislative review work delegated to the committees. The amount of attention given to exercise of the parliamentary oversight function depends on the particular committee.
Alvidas Lukošaitis, “Parlamentinės kontrolės įgyvendinimas Lietuvoje: metodologinės pastabos apie trūkinėjančią “šeiminko-samdinio grandinę”//Politologija. 2007, nr. 2
Parliamentary committees and ministries are well coordinated and parliamentary monitoring is satisfactory. Ministers appear regularly before committees and communication is adequate. Although the number of ministries has grown over the years, reaching 20 ministries and 15 ministers, the number of parliamentarians has still not increased beyond 60 members. Each committee has up to 13 members. As such, their workload has expanded considerably in recent years, which has made running standing committees more challenging. In general, MPs are often members of more than one committee.
Better Regulation in Europe: Luxembourg. OECD, 2010. www.oecd.org/gov/regulatory-policy/46592016.pdf. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Ministres.” Le portal de l’actualité gouvermentale, www.gouvernement.lu/3596522/20140328-. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
The number of Sejm committees exceeds the number of ministries. However, some committees, such as the Deputies’ Ethics Committee, deal exclusively with internal parliamentary issues. Most ministries, including the more important ones, have only a single oversight committee, a so-called branch committee. The distribution of subject areas among committees does not infringe upon parliament’s ability to monitor ministries.
The Slovenian parliament has two kinds of working bodies – 13 committees, which normally cover the work of ministries, and eight commissions (plus four commissions of inquiry), some of them standing, which deal with more specific issues such as the rules of procedure, the supervision of intelligence and security services or the national minorities. Under the Cerar government, the committee structure has remained unchanged, even though the number of ministries has increased. As a result, the number of committees overseeing more than one ministries has grown. However, this has not infringed on the monitoring of ministries.
The Swiss government has only seven ministries, and all attempts to enlarge this number has failed due to political opposition within parliament. Hence, most of the seven ministries have responsibility for many more issue areas than in other democracies. Both the first and the second parliamentary chambers have nine committees dealing with legislation and two committees with oversight functions (such as the Finance Committee, which supervises the confederation’s financial management). Four other committees have additional tasks (such as the Drafting Committee, which checks the wording of bills and legal texts before final votes). Thus, the task areas of the parliamentary committees do not correspond closely to the task areas of the ministries. Nonetheless, this does not indicate that the committees are not able to monitor the ministries.
The Chilean legislature’s oversight function lies mainly with the Chamber of Deputies and its (currently) 29 permanent committees (Comisiones Permanentes) and several ad hoc investigative committees (Comisiones Investigadoras). These permanent committees correlate in part with the 23 ministries, but there are various exceptions in which a single committee is responsible for the domain of various ministries or one ministry’s area of responsibility is distributed across multiple committees. It should be noted that Chile is not a parliamentary but a presidential system and thus ministers are not directly accountable to the Chilean National Congress. Therefore, the degree of control exercised by the congressional committees is institutionally rather weak.
Quantity and name of the permanent parliamentary committees: http://www.camara.cl/trabajamos/com isiones_tipo.aspx?prmT=P


Quantity and name of ministers: http://www.gob.cl/ministros/

About interpellations of ministers
After the last reshuffle of the Syriza-ANEL coalition government in November 2016, the number of ministries increased. Prime Minister Tsipras created several additional new ministries, such as the so-called Ministry of Digital Policy and the Ministry of Migration Policy. This raised the total number of ministries to 18. By contrast, the number of parliamentary committees remained the same: six “standing committees.”

Today, this discrepancy (18 ministries to six committees) creates a task mismatch, but parliamentary scrutiny is jointly carried out. For instance, there is a Standing Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs and a Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs.

The problem with monitoring ministries is owed to the sometimes decorative participation of members of parliament in committee meetings. Even though competences have been transferred from the plenary of the Greek parliament to the regular committees (which examine new legislation), this has not considerably improved the quality of legislation and parliamentary control.
Information on the number, competences and tasks of regular committees of the Greek parliament in English is available at http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/en /Koinovouleftikes-Epitropes/Katigor ies. Accessed on 07.06.2013.
There is considerable correspondence between the number and task areas of the 13 ministries and those of the Congress of Deputies’ 19 standing legislative committees. The exceptions are the international development, culture, equality, climate change and disability committees, which do not match up with any single ministry (development policy is developed by the Foreign Ministry, culture policy by the Education Ministry, climate policy by the Agriculture and Environment Ministry, and both equality and disability policies by the Health and Social Services Ministry). In addition, the Ministry of Finance has split its task areas into budget and finance and public service. For the rest, each parliamentary committee corresponds – even in name – to a single existing ministry. The constitutional committee, aside from the other functions its name denotes, monitors the activities of the Government Office (Ministerio de la Presidencia, GO).
Índice de Comisiones en Funcionamiento, XII Legislatura
www.congreso.es/portal /page/portal/Congreso/Congreso/Orga nos/Comision
Every government department is shadowed by a committee in the House of Commons (20 at the time of writing). The remit and number of committees adapts to reflect changes in the makeup of the government. House of Lords select committees focus on broader topics and are less directly matched to departmental task areas, but cover important areas. One example is the Science and Technology Select Committee, which in turn has subcommittees that cover specific topics, such as the implications of autonomous mobility or the possible meaning of the withdrawal from the European Union for universities’ staff policies.

However, the capacity of committees to monitor effectively is limited due to a lack of resources and limited continuity in membership (e.g., the House of Lords rules oblige members to be rotated off a committee after four years, although from direct observation of the work of its committees this does not seem to weaken them). Also, the number of reports they issue massively exceeds the time available on the floor of the House to debate them and, despite increased efforts by the committees to publicize them, not all reports achieve much media coverage. A new Brexit committee, with an above average membership and a careful balance of members to reflect conflicting views, was created after the 2016 referendum.
There is a considerable amount of variance in both the number and task congruence of committees across parliaments.

There are 22 regular committees serving the current dáil, which for the most part shadow the main line ministries. In addition, there are also other types of committees, such as special committees (i.e., temporary, subject-specific committees rather than standing committees). These include special committees on the future funding of water resources, the future of health care, and housing and homelessness. The latter committee delivered its final report in June 2016 and has ceased its work. In July 2016, as part of the process of reforming the dáil, a new standing committee was established, the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, to help parliament monitor the government’s economic and financial policy decisions. The committee has 15 members representing all parliamentary parties. No member of the committee can be a government minister.
There are presently thirteen standing committees, several of which are fully congruent with ministerial portfolios. These include health, foreign affairs, environment, economic and financial affairs, and social affairs. The main monitoring committee is the Public Accounts Committee, which is chaired by a member of the opposition. Since 2016, committees have become more involved in monitoring ministries, though they also retain an advisory role. In 2013, an ad hoc standing committee was established to monitor progress in light of Malta hosting the 2018 European Capital of Culture. Two joint committees were also established bringing together social and family affairs, foreign and EU affairs, public accounts, and economic and financial affairs. The standing committee on foreign and EU affairs, among other tasks, scrutinizes pipeline aquis. In 2016, it considered 102 EU legislative proposals. As a result of this onerous task, this standing committee has become quite sophisticated and has three subcommittees: one acting as a clearinghouse and the other two dealing with the various policy areas in line with ministerial portfolios. This standing committee also works very closely with the other standing committees.
The Parliament of Malta web page
Parliament Annual Report 2016
New Zealand
The New Zealand House of Representatives is far too small to establish as many select committees as would be necessary to fully correspond to the number of ministries. In recent years, efforts have been made to restrict the number of select committees any individual member of parliament may sit on. Prior to the 2017 election there were some 13 select committees, which had to face 59 portfolios, led by 20 cabinet ministers, five ministers outside cabinet, two support party ministers and one parliamentary undersecretary from a support party. Select committees have an average of 9.5 members, with numbers fluctuating between six and 11.
Ministers: http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/cabinet/ministers (accessed December 5, 2016).
Select committees: http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/sc (accessed December 5, 2016).
The number of committees in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies is roughly in line with the number of ministries in the government. However, the legislature’s oversight capacity is reduced by the incomplete match between ministries and parliamentary committees.
There are 18 standing committees in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM), which are generally established in parallel with structure of the ministries. The most recent such committee, the Security and Intelligence Commission, was established in spring 2014. Except for committees established by special laws, the jurisdiction of each committee is not expressly defined by the rules of procedure. Some committees have overlapping tasks. Committees do not independently monitor ministry activity but do examine draft bills. During discussions, committees may also supervise the ministry activity indirectly. The State Economic Enterprises Commission does not audit ministries but plays an important role in monitoring developments within their administration. The distribution of the workload of these committees is uneven. The Planning and Budget Commission is the most overloaded group, as every bill possesses some financial aspect. Professionalization among committee members is low. Neither the Strategic Plan nor the Activity Reports of the TBMM emphasize the need to implement effective ministerial monitoring. These committees recently stated their intent to recruit more qualified personnel in certain areas.
Nakamura, Robert and Omer Genckaya. 2010.“Assessment for the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Support of the Implementation of the Public Financial Management Act.” Report to the World Bank.
TBMM İdari Teşkilatı 2015 Faaliyet Raporu, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/docs/faaliyet_raporu_2015.pdf (accessed 1 November 2016)
TBMM 26. Dönem 1. Yasama Yılı Faaliyet Raporu, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/docs/26_1_yd_faaliyet_raporu_20102016.pdf (accessed 1 November 2017)
The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
The constitution provides for 10 ministerial portfolios, increased to 11 when a Ministry of Education was assigned with the tasks of the Communal Chamber, dissolved in 1965. In the present House of Representatives (80 seats, of which only 56 are occupied), there are 16 committees; one for each ministry plus others dealing with specific cross-ministerial matters. According to the House’s activity report for the 2015/2016 session (latest available), committees held 650 meetings overall (compared to 746 in 2014/2015). The Refugees, Enclaved and Missing Persons Committee held 24 and the Finance and Budget Committee held 82 meetings.

Properly monitoring ministries’ work is hindered by three factors: the small number of deputies (56), high membership in most committees (nine) and very broad scope of each line ministry’s competences. Each deputy must participate in at least three committees and, given their limited resources, faces difficulties to meet their obligations. As a consequence, the attendance rate at meetings is low, prompting parliamentary action.
1. Activity Report for 2015-2016 season, House of Representatives, 2016, http://www.parliament.cy/images/media/assetfile/APOLOGISMOS%202015-2016.pdf (in Greek).
When the Gunnlaugsson and later Jóhannsson cabinet (2013-2016) came to office in 2013, only four of the eight standing parliamentary committees fully coincided with ministry responsibilities: the Economic Affairs and Trade Committee (Efnahags- og viðskiptanefnd) coincides with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (Fjármála- og efnahagsráðuneytið); the Industrial Affairs Committee (Atvinnuveganefnd) coincides with the Ministry of Industries and Innovation (Atvinnuvega- og nýsköpunarráðuneytið); the Foreign Affairs Committee (Utanríkismálanefnd) coincides with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Utanríkisráðuneytið); and the Welfare Committee (Velferðarnefnd) coincides with the Ministry of Welfare (Velferðarráðuneytið). Others do not coincide. The Ministry of Welfare was then split between two ministers in 2013 and later the Ministry of Interior was split between two ministers in 2017.

Two of the standing parliamentary committees have a special role vis-à-vis the government. The committee responsible for financial issues and budget preparation has the authority to request information from institutions and companies that ask for budgetary funding. The Committee on Foreign Affairs has advisory status vis-à-vis the government regarding all major international policies and the government is obliged to discuss all major decisions concerning international affairs with the committee.

Parliamentary committees rarely oppose the ministries, as party affiliation of committee members reflects the parliamentary dominance of the governing parties. Thus, even if the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries nearly coincide, that does not guarantee effective monitoring. Minority members from the opposition benches can, however, use the committees as a venue to voice their opinions.
Knesset committees are currently not well structured for efficient government monitoring. The structure of the ministries and the parliament’s committees diverges significantly: The Knesset has 12 permanent committees, while the number of ministries shifts according to political agreements, totaling 29 as of the time of writing (headed by 20 ministers). Since parliamentary committees are divided by themes and not by ministerial responsibilities, they often struggle to gather and coordinate information. High turnover rates among representatives also makes it difficult to control professional and bureaucratic information. Although the number of committees is average by global standards, the combination of a small number of parliamentarians (120) and the usually broad coalitions results in only two-thirds of all members being available to sit on committees regularly. Some members of the Knesset sit on as many as five or six committees, inevitably impairing their committees’ supervisory capabilities.
Freidberg, Chen, “Monitoring of the executive by the parliament in Israel – potential and function,” Doctoral Dissertation (2008) (Hebrew).

Freidberg, Chen and Atmor, Ronen, “How to improve the Knesset’s position as a legislator and a supervisory body?” The Israel Democracy Institute 2013: http://www.idi.org.il/media/2438022/00321913.pdf

Kenig, Ofer, “The new Israeli cabinet: An overview of the 33rd government of Israel,” Israel Democracy Institute. (March 2013).

Kenig, Ofer, “Coalition building in Israel: A guide for the perplexed,” Israel Democracy Institute. (February 2013).

“Knesset Committees,” The Knesset Website: 

“Ministries,” Prime Minister’s Office Website (Hebrew):
There are far more committees than members of the cabinet. This is negative from the point of view of effective monitoring. Yet there are more significant obstacles to the effectiveness of congressional committees than their official scope. The most notable limitation has been the one-term limit for legislators, which has now been changed. However, it is too early to assess the effect of this change.
The reduction in the number of ministries (originally to a total of nine) has not been accompanied by a reorganization of parliamentary committees. The result has been a strong mismatch between the task areas of ministries and committees. The fact that ministries have been covered by several committees has complicated the monitoring of ministries. Moreover, the real decision-making center, the PMO, is not covered by any parliamentary committee at all.
The task areas of the parliamentary committees poorly match the task areas of the ministries. Only the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice have an equivalent parliamentary committee. These committees being the Budget and Finance Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Committee of Justice. While the Ministry of Agriculture reports to only a single committee, this committee oversees three other ministries. In all other cases, ministries report to multiple committees and committees oversee multiple ministries’ task areas.
1. List of Parliamentary Committees: http://titania.saeima.lv/Personal/Deputati/Saeima11_DepWeb_Public.nsf/structureview?readform&type=3&lang=LV

2. Composition of the Cabinet of Ministers: http://www.mk.gov.lv/en/mk/sastavs/?lang=1
There is no congruence between the structures of ministries and those of parliamentary committees. The number of parliamentary committees is limited to eight (up from six in 2008) while there are 25 to 30 ministries or state secretaries. This rule set up in 1958 was meant as, and resulted in, a limitation of deputies’ power to follow and control closely and precisely each ministry’s activity. The 2007 to 2008 constitutional reform permitted a slight increase of committees and allowed the possibility to set up committees dealing with European affairs.
The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
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