I. Meeting of the Conciliation Board of Deputy Factions (Deputy Groups)
1. The complete name of the event, “Meeting of the Conciliation Board of Deputy Factions (Deputy Groups)” (below, the CB), was not given on the main page of the website of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Instead, meetings of “the Conciliation Board” were announced.
2. Article 73 of the Rules of Procedure of the VR of Ukraine says that “proposals for review at the nearest meeting of the Conciliation Board shall be submitted to the but not by factions of the Parliament, which are not empowered to do so.
Deputy factions and groups are to submit draft laws through their representatives in the Committees. This must be done not later than four days prior to the nearest CB meeting.
Pursuant to Part twelve, Article 73 of the Rules of Procedure, CB meetings are that have been processed by the VRU Committees and Secretariat. This is similar to the mechanism for adoption of the State Budget, wherein the Government acts as the holder of legislative initiative and the Parliament votes “for” or “against the budget.
Thus, all the work during CB meetings must be related exclusively to the proposals submitted by Committees, Ad Hoc Commissions, and Temporary Investigating Commissions. After that, the procedure of approval of these proposals must take place, i.e. voting for a particular draft of the weekly agenda of the Parliament’s plenary meetings.
The Rules of Procedure do not provide for a specific sequence of reviewing these proposals. Pursuant to the Rules of Procedure, approval of proposals requires the support of CB members with the right to vote representing deputy factions (deputy groups) with a total number of members which is enough for adopting a positive decision when voting on an issue in the session hall.
It should be noted, however, that each time faction representatives spoke at the
In violation of the aforementioned provision of the Rules of Procedure, there was NOT a single time when voting on the weekly agenda was held.
3. The participants in a CB meeting never considered any proposals (para. 7, Part 14, Article 73 of the Rules of Procedure) regarding the topics for the Government Question Hour. Pursuant to Part three, Article 229 of the Rules of Procedure, such proposals “shall be submitted to the Conciliation Board by deputy factions (deputy groups).”
II. Monitoring of compliance with the Rules of Procedure
during plenary meetings
During the meetings of the 7th session of the Ukrainian Parliament, USAID RADA Program experts noted the following violations:
1. In most cases, first readings of draft laws were conducted in accordance with the simplified procedure, although Part one, Article 113 of the Rules of Procedure specifies that the first reading of draft laws should be considered in accordance with the complete procedure for discussion of draft laws.
Most likely, when the chairs of the meeting proposed that the first reading of a draft law be conducted in accordance with the simplified procedure, they did so for the purpose of enabling the Verkhovna Rada to consider a greater number of bills. It should be noted, however, that the complete procedure for draft law consideration allows an essential reduction of the debating time if the chair sets a limit on the time for discussing the issue in question. Should the MPs object to the proposed reduction of the debating time, the chair can put his/her proposal to the vote. Approval of this procedural decision requires just 150 votes of MPs.
2. During the seventh session, 33 days were allocated for plenary meetings. Of these, nearly ten and a half days were set aside for second readings of draft laws, i.e. one third of the plenary time.
Second reading discussions were mostly fruitless, because only one amendment (to an education-related draft law) was approved during this type of MP activity. Also, a number of amendments “voiced” directly at a plenary meeting were approved.
In thousands of other cases, when MPs insisted that their previously rejected amendments be put to the vote, these amendments were voted down.
This situation necessitates changes in the second reading procedure. It is deemed expedient to transfer the second reading discussion from the session hall to the Committees, with the full Parliament having to consider only the final version of the draft law text. This will be instrumental in lessening the “time burden” of the plenary meetings and improving the Parliament’s performance.
3. On March 23, 2017, the Law “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Corporate Contracts” was adopted. Then the law was referred for signature to the President on April 3, 2017; but it has not been signed yet. This fact was voiced at a plenary meeting by Samopomich faction MP Viktoria Ptashnyk.
This Law was required to be signed by the President of Ukraine, promulgated and published 15 days after being referred to him for signature, namely, on April 19, 2017; but this has not been done until now.
This violation partially results from conflict of legal provisions in Ukrainian legislation, inasmuch as the Constitution does not specify who should sign and promulgate the Law in such cases.
Another similar case is that of the Law “On Amending the Law ‘On Banks and Banking’ Regarding Natural Persons’ Deposits,” for signing back on December 22, 2016.
Both draft laws underlying the above-mentioned Laws had once been assigned top priority by the President.
4. At present, electronic registrations are deemed inexpedient. This procedure was used when the previous version of the Rules of Procedure conditioned the opening of a plenary meeting upon the presence of a quorum and established the number of attending MPs required for the quorum to be valid.
An MP’s salary is calculated exclusively on the basis of his/her written registration at the beginning of the meetings, to be affixed by the MP’s signature in the payroll. The electronic registration of an MP at the beginning of each meeting (morning or afternoon) is determined by the presence of his/her voting card in the slot of his/her voting box in the session hall. However, some deputies insert other MPs’ cards into the respective slots, thus violating Part one, Article 26 of the Rules of Procedure: “In the session hall of the Verkhovna Rada, a People’s Deputy shall get registered with the help of the electronic system in a way that rules out registration of another person instead of this People’s Deputy.”
5. Absence of an opinion from the lead Committee on the inclusion of a draft law in the session’s agenda. One of the reasons behind this violation of Article 96 the Rules of Procedure is the legal conflict between Article 96 of the Rules of Procedure and the provision regulating this procedure in Section three of the Rules of Procedure “Preparation and Procedure for Consideration of Issues at a Session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.”
This situation necessitates making amendments to the respective Articles of the Rules of Procedure in a way that will remove the legal conflict.
In particular, still unavailable is an opinion from the Committee on Legal Policy and Justice on the inclusion in the session’s agenda of draft laws Nos. 7440 and 7441 related to the creation of the High Anti-Corruption Court. These two laws were assigned top priority by the President. They were referred to the lead Committee on December 26, 2017. More than 30 days (in fact even more than 50) have passed since then and there is still no opinion from the Committee, in violation of Article 96 of the Rules of Procedure.
The Main Scientific Expert Office of the VRU Secretariat submitted its opinion on January 16; the Committee on Preventing and Combating Corruption, on February 7.
III. Analysis of the Hours of Questions to the Government
At the most recent meeting within the framework of the Jean Monnet Dialogues, which was held on November 22-24, 2017, a new format for the Hour of Questions to the Government (below, the Hour) was determined; it provides for the following pattern of the Hour:
- 20 minutes – a report from the Government;
- 20 minutes – questions from each of the deputy factions and groups;
- 20 minutes – questions from individual MPs.
Two Hours were conducted in line with that format. The said recommendations were proposed in an Analytical Note to the roundtable on “Hour of Questions to the Government as a Tool of Parliamentary Control” that was organized by the USAID RADA Program on October 13, 2017.
It should be noted that the new format of the Hour is not provided for by the Rules of Procedure the VR of Ukraine; therefore, a procedural decision on ad hoc departure from the prescribed procedure is required to change the procedure for conducting the event.
The systematic violations of the Rules of Procedure include the following:
- Failure to approve the weekly agenda at the Conciliation Board meeting;
- Failure of the chair of the meeting to announce the names of the Ministers not attending the Government Question Hour and the reasons for their absence.
The mechanism of the Hour is part of the fulfillment of the Parliament’s control function; it provides for an equal dialogue between the two branches of government. However, at present this procedure is purely formal, failing to perform its key function – that of parliamentary control of the executive branch. This can be seen from the character of questions asked by the MPs and from the fact that the Cabinet of Ministers’ members do not quote any reliable statistical and actual data when answering questions from MPs.