Implementation of parliamentary reform

  • April 2018

One of the key directions of changes in our country is the parliamentary reform, which is focused on strengthening the institutional capacity of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and ensuring of these functions directly impacts the quality of legislation, the efficiency of 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 in the first place include the following:

  • Low level of legitimacy of laws as effective regulators of socio-economic relations and tools for implementing state policies. More often than not the law is not appropriately aimed at addressing any particular problem;
  • The Parliament fails to properly fulfill its oversight function, which fact can be seen from the lack of systematic parliamentary oversight of the implementation of laws and deviation from a number of provisions of the Rules of Procedure concerning the conduct of the Hour of Questions to the Government, although we realize that these deviations result from search for improvements.

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 above 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 April 2018

Creation of an independent parliamentary civil service

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which, pursuant to a provision of the Constitution, is the sole legislative body in Ukraine, must exercise institutional, administrative, and financial autonomy. In particular administrative autonomy means the Parliament’s ability to independently form its Secretariat 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 and organizational support, and increasing the level of public confidence in the Parliament.

This is the purpose of Roadmap Recommendation No. 41, which 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 of the current year, 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” and the USAID RADA Program, 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 proposals regarding the parliamentary service. The discussion 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.

As of April 2018, the Working Group of the Committee on the Rules of Procedure has been focusing on preparing a draft law on creation of a detached parliamentary service.

The USAID RADA Program has been working on the creation of a Green Paper on Reforming Parliamentary Service, assessing obstacles to effective performance of the service of the legislative body and prospects for modernizing and reforming the Secretariat of the VR of Ukraine.

Public discussion of draft laws

In April 2018, four bills were presented on the electronic portal for public discussion of draft laws.

During the period of existence of the portal, the most actively discussed draft law was No.1135-1, on firearms for civilians, with 861 persons taking part in the discussion. The draft law received about 900 comments/proposals/remarks.

Reducing the number of Committees of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

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. The continuous increase (from convocation to convocation) in the number of VRU Committees is accounted for by the political need to meet the contradictory demands of the parliamentary factions.

To optimize the work of the parliamentary Committees, to structure their activities, and to clearly demarcate their areas of competence, the European Needs Assessment Mission proposed Recommendation No. 17 in the Roadmap:

“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.”

The implementation of this proposal is aimed at:

  • enhancing coordination between Ministries and Committees in the legislative process, which will be reflected in the integrity of the implementation of state policy in general;
  • improving in-depth and purposeful performance of oversight functions by the parliamentary Committees.

In 2017, Draft Law No. 6256 “On Amending the Laws of Ukraine ‘On the Committees of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine’ and ‘On the Central Bodies of Executive Power’” was registered at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; it is aimed at optimizing the work of the Committees of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and at aligning them with the spheres of jurisdiction of the Ministries. The draft law provides that no more than 20 Committees will be created by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the new convocation. The names of the Committees and their areas of competence must be aligned with the spheres of activity of the Ministries.

Within the framework of preparation for consideration of that draft law, the USAID RADA Program conducted a research on correspondence between the areas of competence of the parliamentary Committees and the spheres of jurisdiction of the Ministries; it also conducted a roundtable to discuss that issue.

On April 5, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted Draft Law No. 6256 in the first reading.

When working on the bill before its second reading, the Parliament must resolve the problem of optimal proportion between the sectoral Committees and the Committees in charge of issues outside the competence of the Ministries; as of today, these Committees include:

  1. the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Support to Work of the Verkhovna Rada;
  2. the Committee on Budget;
  3. the Committee on Preventing and Combating Corruption;
  4. the Committee on European Integration.

Proportional distribution of distribution of positions in the Committees

To provide for proportional representation of each faction and each group in the Committees and to decrease the impact of political factors on the distribution of positions 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.”

On February 5, 2018, Draft Law No. 7550 “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine regarding Distribution of Positions in the Committees of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine based on the d’Hondt Method” was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

The opinion of the Committee on the Rules of Procedure on the draft law was to recommend that the Verkhovna Rada should approve that draft law as the basis based on the results of its first reading, having regard to the Committee’s remarks and proposals as well as to the favorable opinion of the Main Research and Expert Department.

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.

On April 6, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada approved that draft law in the first reading.

Changes as regards voting

The USAID RADA Program was involved in the processing of Pat Cox Mission’s Recommendation No. 13 to revisit the procedure for adopting decisions by the Verkhovna Rada so as to implement a system of voting for interim (internal) decisions in the process of discussion of draft laws by a simple majority of the total number of MPs present at the moment of voting; as a result, two draft laws “On Amending the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (so as to Improve the Decision-Making Procedures)” were prepared and submitted to the Verkhovna Rada for consideration: No. 6299 (the main one) and No. 6299-1 (an alternative one)

Currently, they are being processed by the Committee on the Rules of Procedure before being placed on the agenda of the session.

Moreover, on November 3, 2017, the USAID RADA Program conducted a roundtable with the participation of MPs, experts, civil activists and journalists “The Problems of the Voting Procedure, the Quorum, and the Status of Laws,” presenting an Analytical Note with recommendations towards implementation.

Changes in the second reading procedures

In the next few days, a draft law prepared with the participation of USAID RADA Program experts will be submitted to the Parliament; it aims at amending the Rules of Procedure in order to reform the second reading procedure in the Parliament. It provides that amendments and proposals submitted by MPs will be considered exclusively in the lead Committee with the participation of their authors; this will result in a draft law version after adoption or rejection of amendments and proposals from the holders of the right to legislative initiative. The processed text will be referred to the Legal Department and the editing units of the Secretariat of the VR of Ukraine. After that, the Committee will form the final text and submit it to the plenary session for discussion and approval by the Verkhovna Rada.

Submitting a draft law for consideration by the VR of Ukraine

On June 22, 2017, Draft Law No. 6640 “On Amending the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (regarding Letter of Support for Draft Laws)” was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada. This draft law provides that, for a bill to be finally registered, its initiators must present to the draft laws registration sector a Letter of Support for the proposed bill which must be signed by at least as many MPs as the number of members in the Parliament’s smallest faction or group.

These changes will bring about a considerable economy of MPs’ time directly in the session hall; indeed, for example, during the 7th session, 10.5 plenary days out of the total of 33 were spent on consideration of draft laws in the second reading; as a result, only one amendment to a draft law on education (No. 3491) was approved. If such innovation is implemented, up to 5% of the MP’s in-session time can be saved annually, which will improve the Parliament’s performance and save State Budget funds.

As of April 2018, this draft law was pending before the relevant Committee.