Trends in Parliamentary Oversight

66 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2007

See all articles by Riccardo Pelizzo

Riccardo Pelizzo

Nazarbayev University

Rick Stapenhurst

McGill University - School of Continuing Studies

David M. Olson

Professor David M. Olson

Date Written: 2004


This report presents the Roundtable entitled "Legislative Oversight: Theories and Practices," organized by the editors as part of the Southern Political Science Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, USA, January 7-10, 2004.

The papers presented herein reflect the papers presented at that Roundtable. The paper by Pelizzo and Stapenhurst presents the data collected from a survey of 83 countries by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in collaboration with the World Bank Institute. The data analysis reveals that legislatures in parliamentary systems are generally better equipped to oversee government activities than legislatures in presidential and semipresidential systems. The paper also investigates the role of legislatures in preparing and approving the budget. The analysis reveals that legislatures in presidential systems are generally the most active legislatures in the preparation of the budget, while parliaments are the most active legislatures in approving the budget. Thomas F. Reminton's paper examines the use of de facto oversight mechanisms by the Russian Federal Assembly and relates them to institutional performance in the postcommunist Russian state. The paper finds that by contrast with the early 1990s, policy making has become much more efficient. David M. Olson's paper argues that the Polish Sejm is currently the most active post-communist parliament in oversight and administrative review. In the light of the Polish experience, the paper suggests that post-communist parliaments will have increasing capacity to be active in oversight as a result of both the budgeting process and growing international influences upon policy choices. Edward Schneier's paper investigates why the post-reforms Indonesian parliament has not put mechanisms of legislative oversight to effective use. The problem is partially by three sets of factors, namely the legislature's own failure to institutionalize, endemic problems of corruption and a lingering tendency to defer to entrenched elites. Scott W. Desposato's paper investigates how legislatures' ability to engage in effective oversight activities is significantly related to both the formal institutional framework and informal institutional incentives. The paper investigates the impact of the informal institutional incentives on state assemblies'ability to oversee executive activities in Brazil. Mark Shepard argues that in spite of the House of Commons' awareness of its limitations in administrative review and oversight, change has been slow and hampered by the constitutional frame-work, executive hegemony and strong partisanship in the British Parliament. The author further argues that although there have been some important concessions recently, many of the successful reforms have focused on improving efficiency of oversight rather than effectiveness of oversight per se. Timothy J. Power's paper addresses one of the most important issues that constitutional engineers and practitioners are confronted with, that is: is executive dominance irreversible? After discussing some of the historical factors that have created the conditions for executive dominance, Power illustrates how the Brazilian congress managed to do the unthinkable: to reduce the President's authority to issue emergency decrees and, by doing so, to reduce substantially the power of the executive. Keith Schulz's paper raises an interesting issue. He notes that while international agencies' involvement in legislative capacity building represents one of the most critical aspects of their activities, it is not at all clear how the impact of internationally funded programs should be measured. The author also discusses how USAID has attempted in the past couple of years to re-spond to this dearth of knowledge and information.

Keywords: Legislatures, Parliament, Oversight, Russia, Poland, Indonesia, Brazil, United Kingdom

Suggested Citation

Pelizzo, Riccardo and Stapenhurst, Rick and Olson, David M., Trends in Parliamentary Oversight (2004). Available at SSRN: or

Riccardo Pelizzo (Contact Author)

Nazarbayev University ( email )

53 Kabanbay Batyra Avenue
Astana, 010000

Rick Stapenhurst

McGill University - School of Continuing Studies ( email )

Montreal, QC

David M. Olson

Professor David M. Olson ( email )

P.O.Box 26170
Greensboro, NC 27412
United States
336 334 4360 (Phone)
336 334 4315 (Fax)

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