Implementation of parliamentary reform

  • February-March 2018

One of the key reforms is the parliamentary reform, which is focused on strengthening the Parliament’s institutional capacity and ensuring fulfillment of its main functions: legislative, oversight, and representative. Effective performance of these functions directly impacts the quality of legislation, oversight of the implementation of laws, and representation of the interests of the entire state as well as of the individual voters.

The problems that the parliamentary reform is meant to address include the following:

  • Low level of legitimacy of the law as an effective regulator of social relations, a tool for implementing state policies. The law is not aimed at addressing any particular problem;
  • The Parliament fails to fulfill its oversight function, which fact can be seen from the lack of systematic parliamentary oversight of the implementation of laws, violation of the Rules of Procedure concerning the Hour of Questions to the Government, etc.

In February 2016, the European Commission proposed “The Roadmap on Internal Reform and Capacity-Building for the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine” (below, the Roadmap).

This document contains recommendations on ways to reform the Ukrainian Parliament, aiming to resolve the said problems, to improve legislative quality, to ensure transparency and openness of the VR of Ukraine and the MPs’ compliance with ethical rules and standards, and to raise the level of the Parliament’s administrative capacity.

Parliamentary reform implementation measures taken in January-March 2018

Creation of an independent parliamentary civil service

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which is the sole legislative body in Ukraine, must exercise institutional, administrative, and financial autonomy. Administrative autonomy means the Parliament’s ability to independently form the parliamentary civil service and support its operation.

An effective, professional, politically neutral, and credible parliamentary civil service is a prerequisite for high legislative quality. Creation of an independent parliamentary service will be instrumental in raising the status of the Secretariat of the VR of Ukraine in the legislative process, ensuring expert analytical support, and increasing the level of public confidence in the Parliament.

Recommendation No. 41 of the Roadmap provides as follows:

“In the longer-term perspective the VRU could consider moving towards the establishment of an independent parliamentary civil service.”

On November 24, 2017, the USAID RADA Program held a roundtable on “Parliamentary Service: Reform, Operating Principles, and Guarantees for the Activities of the Secretariat of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine,” presenting for the first time an Analytical Note with recommendations on reforming the parliamentary service.

In January, the USAID RADA Program conducted a survey of internal stakeholders to identify parliamentary service problems and possible ways to address them.

On January 17, 2018, the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Support to Work of the Verkhovna Rada created a working group to prepare a draft law of Ukraine on parliamentary service.

On January 22, 2018, the Committee on State Construction, Regional Policy and Local Self-Government, together with the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Support to Work of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, with support from the Council of Europe Program “Decentralization and Territorial Consolidation in Ukraine,” organized a discussion “Creation of Parliamentary Service as a Component of VRU Reform.” The key stakeholders, who had been invited to take part in the event, presented their vision of parliamentary service. The event also featured the presentation of the USAID RADA Program’s Analytical Note “Problems of Parliamentary Service,” materials from the European Information and Research Center on international experience in parliamentary service regulation, and the magazine Parliament – Issue 4 / Specifics of Parliamentary Service Performance at the Secretariat of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine published by the Agency for Legislative Initiatives.

By the end of March 2018, the Working Group of the Committee on Rules of Procedure plans to approve the structure of the draft law on parliamentary service.

Public discussion of draft laws

From the beginning of 2018, four draft laws were published on the e-portal for public discussions. A total of 41 citizens of Ukraine took part in the discussion. In January-February 2018, the participants were most active when discussing Draft Law No. 6674 “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts to Ensure Public Openness of Information on Funding of Civil Associations and Use of International Technical Assistance.”

Since the launching of the portal, the most-discussed bill was Draft Law No. 1135-1 on civilian firearms, with 861 participants. The bill got about 900 commentaries/proposals/critical remarks from the audience.

Parliamentary reform actualization

Reducing the number of Committees of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

At present, Draft Law No. 6256 is registered at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; it provides that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the next convocation may create no more than 20 Committees. The names and areas of responsibility of the Committees must, as a rule, be aligned with the areas of competence of the Ministries.

On March 15, 2017, the above bill was placed on the agenda as item number 5, but the Parliament had no time to consider it.

These recommendations were proposed in the Roadmap on parliamentary reform. At present, the Verkhovna Rada has 27 Standing Committees and one Ad Hoc Commission on Privatization. According to international standards, the number of Standing Committees is relatively high. It should be noted that the number of members varies over the Committees, ranging from 7 to 33. The trend towards increase in the number of VRU Committees is accounted for by the political need to meet the contradictory demands of the parliamentary factions. To enhance the effectiveness of MPs’ work in the Committees and to strengthen interaction between the legislative and executive branches in the legislative process, the Pat Cox Mission proposed Recommendation No. 17:

“A reduced number of parliamentary committees (approximately 20), closely paralleling ministerial portfolios, should be considered to take effect from the beginning of the next convocation.”

To ensure proportional representation of each faction in the Committees, the Pat Cox Mission came up with Recommendation No. 18:

“The application of the ‘d’Hondt method’ should be considered in order to ensure proportional representation in the VRU committees and delegations and should take effect from the beginning of the next convocation.”

The USAID RADA Program conducted a study of the distribution of top positions in the Committees in which it used the d’Hondt and Sainte-Laguë methods to determine how many positions of heads / deputy heads / secretaries of Committees would be allocated to each of the factions. The study showed that the distribution of positions conducted at the beginning of the 8th convocation of the VR of Ukraine, which was based on the number of mandates received by the factions, yielded the same results as the d’Hondt method would have produced.

Current state of parliamentary reform implementation

Bringing the Rules of Procedure in compliance with the Constitution

Last year, Draft Law No. 5522 “On Amending the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine” was referred to the Venice Commission. In October 2017, the Venice Commission issued a favorable opinion on the draft, proposing a number of amendments. On December 6, 2017, the Committee on Rules of Procedure approved, at its meeting, changes to the Law’s amended text, relying on the Venice Commission’s recommendations and the decision of the most recent meeting of participants in the Jean Monnet Dialogue. It should be noted that when addressing issues subject to constitutional and legal regulation the Committee made reference to the Coalition Agreement. This had also been mentioned in the previous version of the bill. At present, the bill is pending resubmission by the Committee.

Bringing the Rules of Procedure in compliance with the Constitution was proposed in the recommendations to the conference on parliamentary reform “The Role of the Parliament, the Head of State, the Government and the Public in Improving Legislative Process Quality” which was conducted by the USAID RADA Program on December 12, 2017.

The Accounting Chamber

Reforming the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine to transform it into an efficient auditing state service was mentioned in the Roadmap for Reforming the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of 8th convocation and included in the Coalition Agreement as part of the public finance reform (Section VII). The need for such reform was also confirmed by the World Bank, EUROSAI and supreme foreign audit institutions, including the UK National Auditing Office, the Bundesrechnungshof in Germany, etc.

On March 15, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted to approve the updated composition of the Accounting Chamber. Valeriy Patskan, an MP from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction, was appointed head of the body. He was supported by 309 parliamentarians.

The other newly elected members of the Accounting chambers are Viktor Bohun, Andriy Didyk, Iryna Ivanova, Andriy Maisner, Vasyl Nevidomyi, Tsezar Ohon, Oleksandr Yaremenko, and Ihor Yaremchuk.

Law “On Laws and Legislative Activity”

The need to address the problem of deterioration of legislative quality, which makes it impossible to enforce laws, was partially responsible for the emergence of Pat Cox Mission’s recommendations on reforming the Ukrainian Parliament that were presented in “The Roadmap on Internal Reform and Capacity-Building for the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine” that was endorsed by a Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on March 17, 2016.

In order to facilitate the implementation of the parliamentary reform, in October and November 2017 the USAID RADA Program held 6 discussions on urgent matters related to addressing problems of the legislative process and of the Parliament’s work in general (interaction between the legislative and executive branches; conduct of the Hour of Questions to the Government; problems pertaining to the voting procedure, supporting documents, parliamentary service; role of political actors in the legislative process and improvement of legislative process quality); the discussions resulted in development of general recommendations with consideration for the views of the key stakeholders.

To summarize and systematize the opinions and recommendations pertaining to the above topics, on December 12, 2017, the USAID RADA Program organized a parliamentary conference “The Role of the Parliament, the Government, the Head of State, and the Public in Improving Legislative Process Quality” which featured the presentation of an Analytical Note with recommendations towards improving legislative process quality.

One of the proposals in the Analytical Note is as follows:

“A Draft Law ‘On Laws and Legislative Activity’ should be prepared and submitted for consideration by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as a top-priority bill (in particular, it should provide for unified requirements regarding execution and structure of draft laws, ways in which legal norms can be stated there, etc.).”

The urgency of discussing the drafting and adoption of the Law “On Laws and Legislative Activity” results from a number of legislative process problems; the main ones are as follows:

  • low-quality legislation;
  • violation of the provisions of the Rules of Procedure in the legislative process;
  • low level of interaction of holders of the right to legislative initiative in the legislative process, etc.

The legal system of modern Ukraine is noted for intense rule-making activity. In order to improve the quality of laws, unified normative design standards must be established for all holders of the right to legislative initiative.

For the purpose of unifying the requirements for normative design and draft law submission and making them more specific, work on the drafting and adoption of the Law “On Laws and Legislative Activity” has been going on in Ukraine for more than twenty years. The first attempt to adopt a normative legal act of that type was made in 2001; it failed, however, since the law was vetoed by the President.

Later, a number of drafts of the Law of Ukraine “On Regulatory Acts” were developed (in particular Nos. 1343-1 of 21.01.2008, 5199-VI of 06.09.2012); after that, consideration of the issue was terminated.

To clarify the positions of the stakeholders, on March 23, 2018, the USAID RADIO Program held a public consultation/discussion entitled “Ways to enhance the legislative process. Is there a need for a law on laws and legislative activity?”; at the discussion, the following issues were considered:

  1. What problems should the Law address?
  2. What will the Law include? (The subject of regulation of the Law “On Laws and Legislative Activity”)
  3. The principles of functioning of the legislative triangle
  4. What should the Rules of Procedure of the VR of Ukraine regulate: the legislative proposal or solely the procedures for the passage of draft laws through the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine?
  5. Law effectiveness indicators

At the event, an Analytical Note highlighting the main theses related to the subject of regulation of the Law “On Laws and Legislative Activity” was presented. By the end of July, the USAID RADA Program plans to hold four public consultations/discussions with the key stakeholders; the resulting conclusions will form the basis for the Green Paper on enhancing legislative process quality.