Legislative Actors’ Resources

   

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

EUOECD
 
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.
10
Finland
A total of 15 permanent special parliamentary committees along with the Grand Committee (which focuses mainly on EU issues) 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.
9
Australia
The number of parliamentary committees exceeds the number of government departments (ministries). 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 lead to incohesive action by parliament.
Citations:
https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=comm_list.htm#joint
Bulgaria
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 2018, 16 parliamentary committees oversee the same areas as 17 ministries, with the ministries of economy and tourism overseen by one standing committee.
Czechia
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 organizing 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 and European affairs). 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 60 subcommittees in the Chamber of Deputies. The number of subcommittees per committee varied from zero to seven; the average number was 3.33.
Estonia
The 11 standing committees of the parliament by and large match the structure of the government, which is composed of 11 ministries. In addition to task areas that correspond to ministries, 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 both fall under the purview of the Cultural Affairs Committee. This may imply a work overload, as education and cultural policies have been subject to regular and complex reforms.

All members of parliament belong to one or more standing committees, 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 for three days per week, for a total of 12 hours.

In addition to the standing committees, there are currently three investigative committees. Considering that the members of these investigative committees are also full members of standing committees, the workload of several members of parliament is considerable and concerns have been voiced about unreasonable fragmentation under scarce resources.
Germany
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.
Japan
The Diet’s standing committees (17 in both chambers) closely correspond to the sectoral responsibility of the government’s major ministries. 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 the issue of regional revitalization.
Citations:
The House of Representatives, Japan, Types of Committees, n.d. http://www.shugiin.go.jp/internet/itdb_english.nsf/html/statics/guide/committees.html
Norway
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.
Portugal
The Assembly of the Republic has 12 permanent committees, each with a policy focus.
All ministries are covered by at least one committee, although some committees cover areas of more than one ministry. While these committees by-and-large reflect the portfolios of ministries, there is not an exact correlation, as the number of ministries (17) exceeds the number of committees (12).
The 12 permanent committees are:
• Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees
• Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Portuguese Communities
• National Defense Committee
• European Affairs Committee
• Committee on Budget, Finance and Administrative Modernization
• Committee on Economics, Innovation and Public Works
• Committee on Agriculture and the Sea
• Committee on Education and Science
• Health Committee
• Committee on Labor and Social Security
• Committee on the Environment, Territorial Planning, Decentralization, Local Government and Housing
• Committee on Culture, Communication, Youth and Sport
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 of the Assembly of the Republic, after consultation with the Conference of Parliamentary Committee Presidents. Further, each committee can also create working groups for even more specialized tasks.
In addition, and of greater importance for monitoring government ministries, the Assembly of the Republic can create ad hoc parliamentary committees of inquiry. Their specific purpose is, according to the parliamentary rules of procedure, to “assess compliance with the Constitution and the laws and consider the acts of the Government and the Administration.” These ad hoc committees of inquiry have investigative power and judicial authority
Citations:
Rules of Procedure of the Assembly of the Republic, available online at: http://www.parlamento.pt/sites/EN/Parliament/Documents/Rules_of_Procedure.pdf
Slovakia
In the current term, the Slovak National Council has more parliamentary committees than there are ministries (by a ratio of 19 to 13). Two committees (the European Affairs Committee and the Committee for Human Rights and Minorities) have several ministerial counterparts and three committees enjoy the status of a special committee, that is, as supervising intelligence services. However, committees cover all ministerial task areas and thus, the allocation of subject areas among committees does not hamper parliamentary oversight of ministries.
South Korea
The task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries mostly correspond. As of November 2018, there were 18 standing committees and eight ad-hoc committees tasked with examining bills and petitions falling under their respective jurisdictions and with performing 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.
Citations:
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.).
Sweden
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.
Netherlands
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.
Citations:
Commissies (tweedekamer.nl, consulted 6 November 2014)
USA
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.
8
Austria
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.
Belgium
The number of parliamentary committees in the Chamber of Deputies is slightly larger than the number of ministries. There are 11 permanent committees that address key policy areas largely aligned with ministerial portfolios (e.g., defense, justice, budget or external affairs), while 16 special committees focus on specific topics (e.g., committees created in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal or nuclear safety) or cross-cutting issues (e.g., cases of sexual abuse or constitutional reform). Committees are largely able to monitor ministries, but the effectiveness of this monitoring can be underwhelming, as the recent experience regarding nuclear safety and electricity supply has demonstrated.
Citations:
List and functioning of commissions:
https://www.lachambre.be/kvvcr/showpage.cfm?section=/none&language=fr&cfm=/site/wwwcfm/comm/LstCom.cfm

https://www.lachambre.be/kvvcr/pdf_sections/pri/fiche/fr_12_02.pdf
Canada
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 current Liberal cabinet of Justin Trudeau has 33 ministers, a decrease from 39 ministers under the previous government. As such, 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. Therefore, parliamentary committees are largely capable of monitoring departments.
Croatia
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.
Denmark
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 European 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).
Citations:
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.
Italy
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.
Lithuania
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 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.
Citations:
Alvidas Lukošaitis, “Parlamentinės kontrolės įgyvendinimas Lietuvoje: metodologinės pastabos apie trūkinėjančią “šeiminko-samdinio grandinę”//Politologija. 2007, nr. 2
Luxembourg
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, members of parliament are often members of more than one committee.
Citations:
Better Regulation in Europe: Luxembourg. OECD, 2010. www.oecd.org/gov/regulatory-policy/46592016.pdf. Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.
Poland
The number of Sejm committees exceeds the number of ministries, even though the cabinet is quite large. 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.
Slovenia
The Slovenian parliament has two kinds of working bodies – 13 committees, which normally cover the work of ministries, and seven commissions, 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 and the Šarec governments, 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.
Spain
The task areas of the regular parliamentary committees in the Congress of Deputies and the Senate generally correspond to the functions exercised by government ministries. After June 2018, the 17 ministries were monitored by 21 standing legislative committees in the Congress, which were even renamed to match the ministerial portfolios. The exceptions are three departments whose monitoring is split across two committees (Budget and Finance; Foreign Affairs and International Development; and Health, Consumers and Social Welfare and Disability). The Government Office, which is also responsible for equality policy, is monitored by two committees, the Constitutional and Equality committees. Thus, there is no mismatch, although other structural factors (limited committee resources) are rather more problematic with regard to effective monitoring.
Citations:
Índice de Comisiones, XII Legislatura
http://www.congreso.es/portal/page/portal/Congreso/Congreso/Organos/Comision
Switzerland
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 (e.g., the Finance Committee, which supervises the confederation’s financial management). Four other committees have additional tasks (e.g., 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.
7
Chile
The Chilean legislature’s oversight function lies mainly with the Chamber of Deputies and its (currently) 30 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.
Citations:
Quantity and name of the permanent parliamentary committees: https://www.camara.cl/trabajamos/comisiones_tipo.aspx?prmT=P

Quantity and name of ministers: https://www.gob.cl/instituciones/

About interpellations of ministers
http://www.educacion2020.cl/noticia/que-es-una-interpelacion-y-cual-es-su-objetivo
UK
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.
6
Ireland
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.
Malta
There are presently 16 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. Ad hoc committees are also established from time to time. The Standing Committee on Foreign and EU Affairs, for example, scrutinizes pipeline aquis; because of the scale of this task, three subcommittees were created: 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. In 2018, a new Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life was inaugurated to assist the new commissioner in this area. This figure was empowered to look into breaches of ethics committed by members of parliament and those appointed within the public service on a position-of-trust basis. A new Petitions Committee has also been created. Additionally, a number of joint committees facilitate policy development and implementation across ministries.
Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160118/local/committee-wrapping-up-long-oil-procurement-debate.599271
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151024/local/zonqor-university-site-selection-to-be-discussed-during-parliament.589443
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150724/local/committee-to-consider-whether-gay-men-should-donate-blood.577877
http://www.parlament.mt/standing-committees?l=1
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. Select committees are appointed at the start of each parliament following a general election. The number of members on a committee can vary, but normally a committee has between six and 12 members each, with parties broadly represented in proportion to party membership in the house. Areas of ministerial responsibility are reflected in 12 subject-specific committees (as of 17 October 2017). Those had to scrutinize 58 portfolios (as of November 2018), led by 19 cabinet ministers, four ministers outside cabinet, three support party ministers and three parliamentary undersecretaries, of whom two are from support parties.
Citations:
Ministerial List 14 November 2018; https://dpmc.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2018-11/Ministerial-List-14-November-2018.pdf
About Select Commmittees, 17 October 2017. https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/features/about-select-committees/
Romania
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 the task areas of ministries and parliamentary committees.
Turkey
Under the new governmental system following the April 2017 referendum on the introduction of presidentialism, the number of ministries has been reduced to 16. Advocates of the new system argue that the system would run more efficiently. However, the alignment of ministries (or rather the presidency and its new executive structure) and parliamentary committees is likely to create frictions in policymaking.

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. Except few, 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.
Citations:
Rules of Procedure of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/docs/ictuzuk.pdf (accessed 1 November 2018)
Ş. İba, Parlamento Hukuku, Ankara: Turhan Yayınevi, 2017.
26. Dönem, 1, 2 ve 3. Yasama Yılı, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/komisyon/insanhaklari/faaliyet_raporlari_26.htm (accessed 1 November 2018)
 
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.
5
Cyprus
In the present House of Representatives there are 56 deputies and 16 committees. The latter corresponds to one committee for each of the 11 ministries, while five are dealing with cross-ministerial matters. According to the latest available activity report of the House, during the 2016/2017 session, committees held 676 meetings (compared to 650 in the 2015/2016 session). The Human Rights and Gender Equal Opportunities Committee held 33 and the Finance and Budget Committee held 60 meetings.

The proper monitoring of the work of ministries 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 workload and constraints of resources, all face difficulties to properly prepare. Insufficient study and knowledge of issues makes deputies susceptible to being influenced by lobbying activities.
Citations:
1. Activity Report for 2016-2017 season, House of Representatives, 2017, http://www.parliament.cy/images/media/assetfile/APOLOGISMOS%202016-2017.pdf (in Greek).
Greece
After the most recent reshuffle within the Syriza-ANEL coalition government in Αugust 2018, the number of ministries increased to 19. By contrast, the number of parliamentary committees remained the same: six “standing committees.” This discrepancy (19 ministries versus 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. However, there are also several “Special Standing Committees” and “Special Permanent Committees” with more specific agendas (e.g., one on European affairs and another on armament programs and contracts).

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.
Citations:
Information on the number, competences and tasks of regular committees of the Greek parliament in English is available at http://www.hellenicparliament.gr
Iceland
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. In autumn 2018, two separate ministries – the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Affairs – were established following the abolition of the Ministry of Welfare

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.
4
Hungary
The reshuffling of ministries since 2010 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 centers, the PMO and the Cabinet Office are not covered by any parliamentary committee at all.
Latvia
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.
Citations:
1. List of Parliamentary Committees: https://titania.saeima.lv/Personal/Deputati/Saeima13_DepWeb_Public.nsf/structureview?readform&type=3&lang=LV

2. Composition of the Cabinet of Ministers: https://www.mk.gov.lv/en/amatpersonas
Mexico
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.
3
France
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.
Israel
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 30 at of the time of writing (headed by 22 ministers, including the prime minister). 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.
Citations:
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
(Hebrew).

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: 
https://www.knesset.gov.il/deSCRIPTion/eng/eng_work_vaada.htm


“Ministries,” Prime Minister’s Office Website (Hebrew):
http://www.pmo.gov.il/IsraelGov/Pages/GovMinistries.aspx
 
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.
2
---
---
1
---
---
Back to Top