Opora

On 31 May, the Parliament refused to consider propositions from MP Parubii (draft law on amendments to the Rules of Parliamentary Procedure), and haven't even put the bill on the agenda.

VRU Chairman has repeatedly emphasized that reforming of the Rules of Parliamentary Procedure is based on recommendations of the European Parliament Mission, led by Pat Cox. Therefore, he was extremely dissatisfied with results of the voting. “We are talking each Friday about the need to change the rules of procedure, and each Wednesday about the lack of MPs in the hall and the need to change organization of our work” – he said in the session hall. – “I don't understand, how Ukrainian Parliament can stay away from opening the way to Ukrainian parliamentary reform.”

We have assessed Speaker's suggestions concerning Parliament's law-making timetable.

Background

European Parliament Mission has prepared 52 recommendations to reform Ukrainian Parliament yet when Volodymyr Hroisman was the Chairman of the VRU. These recommendations were announced in March as a basis for parliamentary reform in a joint statement made by Hroisman and President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. The Parliament has voted to take these recommendations as a basis for its reforming, although it's not legally biding. On 22 April, new VRU Chairman, has announced that there is a draft law, aimed to fundamentally change the rules of procedure, and called groups of MPs and parliamentary factions make any suggestions concerning its content. This very elaborated draft law wasn't put on the agenda on 31 May. However, only 1 of 52 recommendations is planned to be implemented according to the draft law, and only five to be implemented partially.

So what does the reform of the rules of procedure mean?

Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are the rules created to organize the work of the Parliament. Functions of the Parliament are determined by the Constitution of Ukraine. The Rules of Procedure, for their part, determine how the Parliament realizes its functions. What needs to be done to register a draft law? How a draft law gets into the agenda? How long a draft law needs to be discussed and how many times it can be put to vote? The Rules of Procedure give answers to these questions and many others.

Ukrainian modern history has enough examples when the rules of procedure were violated causing far-reaching consequences. For example, 16 January voting for dictatorship laws, when Vice Speaker Ihor Kalietnik announced the results of voting seconds after the hands were raised, what transitioned a peaceful protest on Maidan into violence. Another example is a hazarded visa liberalization after an amendment to Vadym Denysenko's bill establishing electronic declaration of income for public officials was approved by the vote without preliminary assessment of the corresponding committee.

Reforming the rules of parliamentary procedure will change the procedural rules for the Verkhovna Rada.

What will the registered bill change?

Speaker's initiative changes the procedures for:

  • schedule of Parliament's legislative activities;
  • registration of draft laws;
  • adoption of the agenda;
  • Parliament's oversight over the government;
  • Schedule of Verkhovna Rada’s work

The problem: MPs miss the weeks dedicated to work in committees.

According to the current schedule, two weeks each month are dedicated to activities in the session hall (voting for bills), and one week to activities in committees (assessment of draft laws and preparation to the second reading). The fourth week is for direct communication with the voters in election constituencies.

However, not all the MPs understand the importance of committee meetings. Some of them prefer to do something else and can even leave Kyiv, what makes it difficult to gather committees. At the same time, MPs often “hold” fast meetings during the weeks dedicated to activities in the parliament. For example during a break between morning and evening sittings of the Parliament. Such approach is bad for both consideration of draft laws and transparency of the committees – there is little time for substantial discussion of bills, and it's difficult to invite everyone interested to such “spontaneous” meetings of committees.

Many MPs still consider their duty to communicate with the voters on the certain scheduled week as a pure formality. Their activities in “overseas electoral district” have already became the talk of the town.

What does European Parliament Mission suggest?What does the draft law establish?
To unite the weeks dedicated for activities in the parliament and in the committees.The same This is the only recommendation of European Parliament Mission, fully embedded in the bill. Besides that, it was proposed to make three-week work in the month. Two first months to work in on plenary sittings and in committees, and the third for constituency activities.

 

Evaluation

A proposition to join plenary and committee weeks is a part of European recommendation #10 and is probably able to increase productivity of the committees. At least the MPs, who are serious about votings but not really serious about the committees, will not have a chance to leave the capital for the whole week because they will miss plenary sessions.

However, this only step will not guarantee MPs conscientiously working in the committees. For example, OPORA has calculated  attendance of MPs at meetings of committees over February-April 2016. Thus, the attendance at Committee on National Security and Defense reached only 57%, and the Budget Committee - 71%. Besides that, almost in all committees MPs often miss the meetings.

However, to get the best efficiency from the joining of committee and plenary weeks, the following should be established on the legislative level:

Monitoring of MPs' attendance at committee meetings. Only 16 of 27 committees are now preparing and publishing the attendance statistics for each MP. To know how MPs attend the meetings of other committees, one should process the preliminary minutes of meetings. Judging from the experience of 16 committees, preparation of such statistics by committee secretariat doesn't require many resources.

Sanctions for missed meetings of committees. According to the current rules of procedure, salaries of MPs depend on written registration on plenary meetings. However, the importance of committee meetings is often forgot during such discussions.

Announcing and reporting about direct meetings with the voters. MPs should inform the voters about the schedule of their personal reception on website of the Parliament and publicly report about the meetings, receptions or other activities they conducted. It will become especially important if three-week circle will be established by new rules of procedure, as long as they will have more time to engage with the voters.

Thus, it's a good but insufficient solution – to join plenary and committee weeks. However, it's the only recommendation of the European Parliament, taken unchanged. Besides that, the other regulations of the draft law are even more questionable. Follow our next publications.

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