Parliamentary Control in Practice
‘’Transparency International-Georgia’’ assesses parliamentary control and its outcomes during the period from December 12,2020 to June 17, 2022.
During the reporting period, the implementation of parliamentary control was irreparably damaged by the ongoing political processes in the country, particularly the boycott of the parliament after the 2020 parliamentary elections by the majority of the opposition. As a result, the Parliament actually continued work without opposition, which had a severe impact on its oversight functions, the use of control mechanisms was reduced, and when used - often executed in an extremely ceremonial manner.
When exercising parliamentary oversight, as hitherto, the attitude of accountable officials towards parliamentary control was still a problem, especially if the control was initiated by the opposition. Another challenging issue for the Parliament is to fulfill its duties in a timely and efficient manner, for instance - reviewing the reports of the accountable bodies and monitoring the implementation of the recommendations issued by the Parliament. Parliamentary control in the most important areas of the country is still ineffective, for example, the oversight of the security sector, due to inappropriate legal guarantees along with a number of other issues.
- 22 Thematic Inquiry Groups were established in the Parliament.
- 4 requests were registered for the establishment of the temporary investigative commissions, but only 1 was created – „The Interim Fact-Finding Commission on the Parliamentary Elections of October 31, 2020”(initiated by the ‘’Georgian Dream’’ faction).
- Parliament Members sent 2 922 questions to the accountable bodies, of which 371 were left unanswered. 91 unanswered questions were initiated by the members of the ‘’Georgian Dream’’ faction, whereas 280 questions were asked by the representatives of the opposition. During the reporting period, most of the deputy questions (445) were sent by Mikheil Sarjveladze (majority), Levan Ioseliani (opposition) sent 313 questions, whereas Aleksandre Elisashvili (opposition) sent 284 questions. Most questions were addressed to the Minister of Justice.
- Instead of 6 interpellations, one interpellation and 19 ministerial hours were held.
- Accountable officials were summoned 19 times to the committee meetings; in 12 cases that were initiated by the opposition, the accountable persons did not appear before the committee.
Major Challenges were identified based on the report:
- The Parliament did not exercise the following parliamentary control mechanisms during the reporting period: request the hearing of the Prime-minister’s extraordinary report, summon an accountable official to the plenary sitting at the invitation of ⅓ of the parliament members, summon the government representative or other accountable person to the committee session by the majority faction;
- 25 reports were submitted to the Parliament during the reporting period, and 9 of them were not discussed. Multiple postponements of report discussions occur systematically, activity reports for 2020 are often reviewed one or more years late;
- It is challenging that there is no effective mechanism for monitoring the recommendations issued by the Parliament. [GR1] The Parliament does not use utilize its powers to control the implementation of the recommendations issued by the trust group, thematic study groups, and the committees;
- The members of the government neglect parliamentary control, especially if it is initiated by the opposition. For example, in 12 cases when the opposition factions summoned accountable persons to the committee sitting, they did not appear in any of them; 280 of the 371 questions left unanswered are submitted by the opposition. The Minister of the Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs and the Minister of Internal Affairs did not show up most of the time.
- The use of Parliamentary control mechanisms should be enhanced, and the members of parliament should demonstrate a high degree of independence while exercising parliamentary control. Parliamentary oversight should address the most challenging issues of the country and should not be imposed based on parochial party agendas.
- Members of both the parliamentary majority and the opposition should utilize all the mechanisms of parliamentary control, including the establishment of investigative commissions, and hearing of the reports from accountable bodies according to the schedule.
- In order to fully engage the opposition in parliamentary control and strengthen its role, solid legal guarantees should be established:
➢ The Rules of Procedure of the Parliament should ensure the proper participation of the opposition in the process of election to parliamentary positions and the compulsion to consult with them;
➢ Independent officials should not be elected by the parliament without consensus with the opposition parties, regardless of the number of mandates of the majority. The approval of the majority of the opposition should be necessary to elect the Auditor General and the Prosecutor General. Support of the majority and minority of the Parliament should be necessary to appoint members of the Supreme Court and High Council of Justice;
➢ In order to enhance the role of the opposition, it is recommended to implement the best international practice so that the representatives of the opposition could also be elected as chairpersons of the parliamentary committee. The positions of parliamentary committee chairpersons should be proportionally distributed among the represented political powers. The representatives of the opposition, among others, should lead the following committees: Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Budget and Finance Committee, and Defense and Security Committee.
➢ When using specific mechanisms of parliamentary control, the guarantees should be increased for the opposition. For example, members of the opposition should be privileged to ask questions to the government (in particular, the opposition should have the right to open debates. When discussing the Prime Minister's annual report, the opposition should have the right to ask more questions to the executive than the majority during interpellation); Members of the opposition should have the right to request debates, including debates on matters of urgency or current affairs; Members of the opposition (opposition factions) should have the right to summon the General Prosecutor and the Head of the State Security Service to the committee sitting.
● Accountable bodies and members of the government should assist the Parliament to fully and effectively implement the control, they should conscientiously and thoroughly adhere to the parliamentary control procedures prescribed by the constitution and rule of procedures, even if it is initiated by the opposition. Furthermore, they should timely respond to the questions submitted by the parliament members, and attend the committee meetings when summoned by the opposition, etc.
● Parliament should pay special attention to the monitoring of the implementation of its own recommendations so that parliamentary oversight does not have a formal nature. Heads of accountable bodies should be invited to the committee to examine the implementation status of the recommendations issued by the Parliament. It is important to introduce an effective monitoring mechanism to assess the level of implementation of the recommendations following the thematic research.
● Parliamentary control should cover all areas that are essential for the country. Exhaustive control over the state security sector is essential. Amendments should be made to the rule of procedures of the Parliament, strengthening the country's representative body with additional powers, namely:
➢ A permanent supervisory council of experts should be established with the parliamentary committee overseeing the State Security Service; it will monitor the State Security Service on a regular basis and be accountable to the Parliament. The council members should be elected by the Parliament. The Supervisory Council must have guarantees of independence;
➢ The members of the specialized committee of the parliament and the supervisory council must have access to classified information, except for information about current operations.