Combining Efficiency and Transparency in Legislative Processes
The Theory and Practice of Legislation Vol. 3(3), 2015 (peer-reviewed)
Posted: 15 Jan 2016 Last revised: 23 Aug 2017
Date Written: 2015
In this contribution, we will illustrate the modern-day dynamics of the interplay between the need for expedience and efficiency on the one hand, and the demand for openness, inclusiveness and transparency on the other by looking into one of government’s main decision-making processes: the legislative process. Particularly in the field of legislation, the balancing of both efficiency and transparency is of the essence for modern legislatures in parliamentary democracies: laws expressed by acts and legislative instruments can only be truly effective if they rest on broad societal support. As we will argue, a transparent and inclusive legislative process functions as a kind of democratic check on government action: it guarantees sufficient deliberative activity before a government may act. Throughout our contribution, a 2012 comparative study commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, and carried out by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Leiden University will be used as a guiding rail to illustrate some the ways in which different jurisdictions in Europe have managed to combine, or at least balance, the need for legislative efficiency and transparency. We will use this study to demonstrate how traditional legislative processes nowadays grapple to translate the will of the citizens into effective legislation, how modern administrations still need democratically underpinned legislative procedures as the basis for the legitimation of (their) decisions, how efficient delivery of decisions and careful (lengthy) scrutiny interact. On the basis of this material we will further discuss concepts of, respectively, efficiency and transparency and especially the way modern legislatures examined in the study use information and communication technology (ICT) to overcome the sometimes opposing demands on their legislative processes. Insofar as possible we will try to highlight a few ‘best practices’ that show how legislative processes can (and cannot) adapt to new present day demands.
Keywords: Legislative process, Efficiency, Transparency, ICT, Consultation, Openness, Participation
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