Legislative Actors’ Resources


Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
As specified in 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.
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.
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.
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. Overall, members of parliament are usually very demanding regarding information and they press authorities to obtain it.
The supply of government documents to the parliament is regulated by article 133 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament.
The parliament has the right to obtain documents from the government. No problems have been observed in the exercise of this right.
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.
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.
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.
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.

In its recent decision, the Austrian Constitutional Court has once more strengthened the position of investigative committees, relative to the government, when it comes to obtaining documents and other data.
VfGH, UA 1/2018-15, 14.9.2018
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. In response, Cumuleo, an activist group seeking to improve the regulation and oversight of public offices, has denounced several illegal attempts to restrict access to public documents.
This does of course imply that government policymaking takes place somewhat in the dark or with limited oversight.
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.
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).
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.
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 Second Senate strengthened the information rights of German parliamentary representatives regarding the European Stability Mechanism Treaty (ESM).

In a ruling from 7 November 2017, the Federal Constitutional Court again strengthened the information rights of the Bundestag vis-á-vis the government, requiring the government to provide comprehensive and publicly available information. In addition, in a recent ruling from February 2019, the Federal Court (“Bundesgerichtshof”) bolstered the rights of parliamentary investigation committees to access governmental records.



BGH 3 ARs 10/18 – Beschluss vom 6. Februar 2019
Government documents can be obtained at the discretion of legislative committees. There are typically no problems in obtaining such papers in a timely manner.
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 must be delivered in full and within an appropriate time. There are limitations with regard to classified documents.
Cabinet Manual: Providing Information to Select Committees: http://cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz/8.66 (accessed October 24, 2015).
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 more classified 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.
Parliamentary committees have the right to receive government documents in the course of their deliberations. However, these documents often arrive incomplete and redacted because of confidentiality considerations, or too late for the committee to make effective use of them.
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.
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.
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 Šarec government, similar to its predecessors, has 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.
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. Under the Moon government, government institutions have become more cooperative in response to parliamentary committees’ document requests.
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 so 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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).
The Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis Final Report January, 2016.
The scope and structure of the Banking Inquiry are set out here:

Shane Martin ‘The Committee System,’ in Muiris MacCarthaigh and Maurice Manning (eds, 2010) The Houses of the Oireachtas. Dublin: IPA.
According to Israel’s basic laws and the Knesset’s Rules of Procedure, 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 or sanctions for enforcement in cases of disobedience and lack of compliance 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.

During the 33rd government of Israel, several members of parliament and the minister of justice 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. However, it should be added that the minister of justice has been changed since then, which has – in addition to the current instability in the political system –presented a further obstacle to the initiative’s realization.
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

Liel, Dafna. “The New Minister of Justice: MK Amir Ohana.” In Mako website.. June 5th, 2019. (Hebrew)

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)

Roznai, Yaniv, Liana Volach, Law reform in Israel, in “The Theory and Practice of Legislation,” 6(2018)2, pp. 291-320: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/20508840.2018.1478330
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 sometimes effective way for members of parliament to obtain information from the government or to gain insight into specific topics.

However, many parliamentary questions are answered only partially or inadequately. In Luxembourg, there is no culture that demands inquiries be answered comprehensively. The effect of parliamentary questions on government work is rarely visible. The press is far more effective in creating change, particularly if the national TV broadcaster RTL addresses a political problem.

In 2019, the opposition Pirate Party complained in parliament that parliamentary questions were often answered too late. This criticism has led to some reduction in delays.
Question parlementaire. Chamber (Parliament). https://chd.lu/wps/portal/public/Accueil/Actualite/!ut/p/z1/fY9Nb4JAEIZ_DVdmmEVYe1sUKST1g41V92LQbFcTYBug5e-Xfhw0oc5tJs_zTl5QcPBCQvImXhjAHlRdfF5N0V1tXZTDflDBcU7z1zz1CVexDJDYmolcEiL6sPsBiHOZJ-Ilnk63EaY482S8iQhTAnXrJ-HGR8riLNzKJeMJ-_MfPPj28Z8RCMtnW-khRY2AAqOcIoaYrGgUuEvKQJnSnn5Li_rEuAHV6Dfd6Mb9aIbzpeve2ycHHez73jXWmlK7Z1s5OKZcbNvB_p6ESpULLtfVjrfiCyDK4lk!/dz/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/ Accessed 24 Oct. 2019.

Gouvernement: Toutes les actualités. https://gouvernement.lu/fr/actualites/toutes_actualites.html?r=f%2Faem_event_type%2Fgouv%3Atags_type_event%5Cparliamentary_question.
Accessed 24 Oct. 2019.
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 and increased traditional personalistic and clientelist party structures. 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.
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.
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.

Although the government party normally has the majority on the committee, explicit party-political motives 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.

Committees’ rights are thus not formally limited, but there are occasional disputes between committees and government over the provision of specific information, and committees will then have to order the publication of government documents. Recent high-profile examples include documents assessing the impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal for the European Union and strategy papers describing the government’s approach to Brexit. In addition, the Johnson government delayed publication of a dossier from the intelligence and security committee about alleged Russian interference in the Brexit referendum campaign. In nearly all cases, Parliament eventually prevails, with the government likely to suffer reputational damage for resisting.
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 does not amount to the right to obtain information.

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, which is edited by the former central bank governor and 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 Information Act (Upplýsingalög nr. 142/2012)
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 2015, however, it has become increasingly 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.
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 fourth session of the 13th legislature, 15 September 2018 to 19 July 2019, parliamentarians issued 2,583 questions, while 240 questions were carried over to this period as they had not been answered during the previous legislative session. Out of this total, 48% (1,366) were answered. This marks a deterioration vis-à-vis the previous three legislative sessions, in which the proportion of answered questions was 55% (first session), 80% (second session) and 57% (third session).

There was, however, an improvement in terms of the proportion of requests answered by central government, which increased from 7% in the third session to 15% in the fourth session. Nevertheless, these are very low percentages.

As noted in previous SGI 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.
Assembleia da República (2018), Balanço da Atividade Parlamentar – 3.ª Sessão Legislativa da XIII Legislatura, available online at: https://www.parlamento.pt/ActividadeParlamentar/Documents/Estatisticas_Actividade_Parlamentar_XIIILeg/ActividadeLegislativa_XIII_3.pdf

Assembleia da República (2019), Balanço da Atividade Parlamentar –XIII Legislatura, 4.ª Sessão Legislativa,” available online at: https://www.parlamento.pt/Documents/2019/julho/Balanco_Atividade_Parlamentar_CS_XIII_4_1.pdf

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.”
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.
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.
Parliamentary committees have the formal right to ask for almost all government documents. The main limits stem from the logic of party competition. Governments do not support opposition members of parliament in their legislative activities. As a result, committees’ access to government documents is often not timely.
According to the Rules of Procedure (Article 62), the speakership of the TBMM may invite the vice-president, ministers and deputy-ministers, and senior public officials to provide information at the plenary, as described by Article 119 of the constitution (state of emergency). Parliamentary commissions may directly communicate with any ministry and request information from a ministry relevant to the commission’s work (Article 41). However, there is no available data for all parliamentary committees on how frequently they request such information – orally or in writing.

Following the failed July 15 coup d’etat, the chairman of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey Investigation Commission on the Coup d’etat, an AKP member, withheld government information and documents from the opposition parties. The request by CHP members of the commission to transmit all the information and documents to them was rejected on the grounds of confidentiality.
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.

Ö.F. Gençkaya, “The Grand National Assembly of Turkey: A Decline in Legislative Capacity,” I. Khmelko et al (eds) Legislative Decline in the 21st Century, Routledge (fortcoming).

“Darbe Komisyonu’nda bir skandal daha… AKP belgeleri sakladı,” Cumhuriyet dailynews, 22 December 2017, http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/890970/Darbe_Komisyonu_nda_bir_skandal_daha…_AKP_belgeleri_sakladi.html (accessed 1 November 2019)
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. 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.
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.

In a sharp departure from past practice, the Republican Congress during the first two years of the Trump presidency has largely refrained from conducting oversight or investigations into the conduct of the executive branch. The Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives as a result of the 2018 midterm elections massively increased levels of oversight and investigation, as it sought to render the executive under Trump accountable. Despite lacking credible legal or constitutional grounds, the Trump administration declared in 2019 the House investigations into presidential misconduct illegitimate and adopted a firm posture of refusing to cooperate with House requests for information, including legally binding subpoenas. As of late 2019, the House and the Trump administration have been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over the administration’s refusal to provide information, and the House has approved an article of impeachment alleging the obstruction of Congress.
The government and the broader public administration have no constitutional obligation to make documents available to the parliament. In practice, ministers or other officials answer questions, present their views or documents to deputies, House of Representatives committees or ad hoc committees.

The Law on the Deposition of Data and Information to Parliamentary Committees gives committees the right to ask for official information and data. Under the law, an official who attends a committee hearing is obliged to tell the truth and to provide genuine documents. Hiding information or documents may lead to judicial.

Critically, while attending a meeting, if invited, is mandatory under the law, there has never been a case of activating this provision against officials and private persons who have refused to appear. This is indicative of the weakness of the law and the House’s ability to obtain documents: access depends on an official’s willingness to attend a hearing and a minister’s discretionary power to approve the release of documents. Thus, she/he can withhold information without risking sanctions.
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
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. Numerous Ombudsman reports have stressed the need for more openness. The speaker of the house has made a number of rulings on the issue of documents being made available to the house. One avenue for obtaining information is through the NAO, which produces reports following a request from the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Another is through the parliamentary question and ministerial statement processes.
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
Ruling delivered by the speaker following the request for tabling of documents sitting nos 79 6th February 2018/ sitting nos 80 7th February 2018
Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
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