New Research: Parliamentary inquiries – Control mechanism without political support

Institute Alternative, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, conducted a research about parliamentary inquiries. The aim of the research was to, by analyzing the legal framework, its implementation and comparative practices, formulate the recommendations for the improvement of this control mechanism.

Although provisioned by the Constitution, initiatives for launching parliamentary inquiry in Montenegro are scarce. This mechanism hasn’t been used over the past ten years. Since the most recent Rules of Procedure of Parliament of Montenegro have been adopted, streamlining the procedures for parliamentary inquiries, there has been only two proposals for their launching.

There is a lack of will of parliamentary majority for launching parliamentary inquiries as well as the lack of trust of opposition in possibilities of their realization. Opposition is not united in initiating implementation of this mechanism. Additional problem are the deficiencies in the way the parliamentary inquiries are regulated. Inquiry committee might face difficulties to collect necessary information, because of the imprecisely defined competences of inquiry, the lack of accessibility to classified information, and the absence of legal provision which would oblige state officials to be interrogated in front of the Committee and sanction them in the case of disobedience to the calls for interrogation or in the case of giving a false testimony.

Unlike Montenegro, where parliamentary inquiry is regulated by the Rules of Procedures, in the majority of EU member states it is regulated by the law, very often, by the special Law on parliamentary inquiries. Adoption of the special legal framework for this control mechanism is aimed at its strengthening, as well as at obligatory nature of the provisions by which it is regulated. The adoption of similar law in Montenegro would regulate the details about the scope and the way of functioning of inquiry committee. It would also envisage sanctions, which would altogether enable the adequate implementation of this mechanism.

In order for the parliamentary inquiries to be conducted more often, the attitude of parliamentary majority needs to be changed. Demands of the opposition and general public also need to be more intense and synchronized. Parliamentary majority should understand that the parliamentary inquiry is, like many other oversight mechanisms over the Government’s work, an opportunity for the Government itself to reaffirm and strengthen its policies in front of the MPs and public. Political agreement, which would envisage launching of parliamentary inquiry once a year or once during the Parliament’s sittings, would finally turn this mechanism into a reality. When conducting a parliamentary inquiry, certain obstacles and limitations in the legal framework are inevitable, and thus:

  • Parliamentary inquiries should be regulated by the special Law on parliamentary inquiries which would describe the scope of inquiry committee’s competences, its formation, organization and functioning, budget, conducting of inquiry, reporting to the Parliament.
  • By defining the competences of inquiry similarly to the criminal proceedings, the Committee would get more reliable methods of acquiring necessary information.
  • The law should include the sanctions for false testimonies, refusals of revealing certain information and not responding to the call for testimonies.
    The special budget for the inquiry committee is necessary for its independent functioning.
  • Amendments of the Law on classified information should envisage the accessibility of classified information to the inquiry committee.
  • Constitutional amendments should decrease the number of MPs required for launching the parliamentary inquiry. As a result, that would enable more initiatives and more public attitudes toward the initiatives of general interest.

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