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Parliamentary Control

The institution of parliamentary control in Romania is expressly consecrated in the content of Article 110 paragraph 1 under the Constitution. According to the provisions of this article, "The Government and other agencies of public administration shall, within the parliamentary control over their activity, be bound to present any information and documents requested by the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, or parliamentary committees throúgh their respective presidents." From the way in which this text is drawn up results the notion that the Constitution of Romania expressly accepts the parliamentary control over the Government and over the other authorities of the public administration, regardless of whether they are central or local.

The parliamentary control exercised with reference to the Government and the public administration assumes a series of specific possibilities among which rank: informing the deputies and senators, questions and interpellations, parliamentary inquiries, the Advocate of the People's activity, the introduction of a motion of censure.

Information of the Deputies and Senators

This represents the first condition of the exercise of the parliamentary control. Data offered by this information have the role of determining the parliamentary action towards the Government and the other bodies of the public administration.

The information may concern Parliament as a whole, one of its Chambers, the parliamentary committee, or the Deputies and Senators.

According to the Constitution, the information of Parliament by the President of Romania or by the prime minister takes place by means of different instruments and procedures. Thus the President of Romania enters in communication with the two Chambers in joint sitting, through messages. He has, however, the possibility of asking one of the Chambers to reexamine a law before its promulgation.

The prime minister, on the other hand, has the possibility of presenting either in the Chamber of Deputies, or in the Senate reports and declarations with regard to the policy of the Government, which are submitted to th debate of the Chamber in front of which they were presented. From this rule are excepted the programme presented for the investiture of the Government as well as the declarations made in case of release of the procedure regarding the engagement of the Government's responsibility on a programme, a declaration of general policy, or a draft bill, or of that which refers to the withdrawal of the confidence granted to the Government, by the furtherance of a motion of censure, which are submitted to debate in a joint sitting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

The parliamentary committees may be informed by the Government at any time by the participation of the members of the Government or of the representatives of the public administration in their proceedings. Moreover, the parliamentary committees can make use of the rights conferred by Article 110 under the Constitution, by virtute of which they may solicit through the agency of their presidents, the information and documents they need in exercising the duties of parliamentary control. The Government and the other bodies of the public administration are obliged to present the information and documents solicited. It is important to notice that the solicitations made by the committees or the Chambers may not exceed the sphere of activity of the Government or of the public administration. The Constitution prohibits parliamentary interference with the activities of the judicial authorities. The acces of the Deputies and of the Senators to the same governmental sources of information is permitted in the terms of Article 110 under the Constitution.

The solicitation of this information is of particular importance both as part of the exercise by Parliament of the legislative function, and in the case of exercising the control function, the information received in this way being essential for the finalizing of the draft bills and for the release of actions that lead to a modification of Government policy or its termination.

Questions

Article 111 under the Constitution provides the obligation of the Government, including that of each of its members to answer questions put by deputies or senators. According to the Standing Orders of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate, by question is understood a simple request for a reply as to the truth of a fact, the exactness of an information as to whether the Government and the other bodies of the public administration intend to communicate to the Chambers the acts and information solicited by a Deputy or a Senator, or if they intend to take a decision in a determined issue.

According to the Standing Orders of the Chamber of Deputies, questions may be oral or written. Replies to the questions may not lead to the furtherance of a motion of censure.

The Standing Orders of the two Chambers attempt to give a definition of questions by restraining their field, in order to avoid a substitution of persons holding functions in the Government and in the public administration by parliamentarians, or at least for checking their captious interventions in the business of the executive.

Interpellations

Interpellations represent a constitutional means of control of Parliament on the Government and its members. Interpellations are made in writing and their object must be stated precisely. They are entered in a special register and posted in the assembly hall. Interpellations are developed in a weekly sitting, in which the floor is given to the interpellator and to the representative of the Government, who may reply immediately, or ask for a respite up to the next sitting devoted to the debate of interpellations.

Likewise, the text of Article 111 paragraph 2 under the Constitution enables each Chamber to express by a motion its position with regard to the issue which has made the object of the interpellation. This is one of the few possibilities which a single Chamber has for adopting a certain attitude in front of the Government, of its policy in a certain domanin, or towards a person exercising a governmental function. In all cases, however, the motion produces no juridical effects, it being only a political sanction which may affect the position of the Government in the issue forming the object of the motion.

Parliamentary inquiries

Parliamentary inquiries represent one of the most specialized means of parliamentary control on the Executive and on the public administration. According to the constitutional regulations, each Chamber may constitute inquiry committees or other special committees, and there is also a possibility for the constitution of joint committee of the two Chambers.

By virtue of the parliamentary standing orders, the committees of inquiry are set up by the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate at the request of one third of their members, rules which also apply when a parliamentary inquiry committee is set up joint sitting of the two Chambers. Likewise, every standing committee may start an inquiry, as part of the object of its activity, with regard to the activity developed by the Government, with the approval of the Chamber of Deputies, respectively of the Senate. To obtaining their approval, the committee has to present a written request adopted by a majority of votes from the members of the committee, stating precisely the matter which forms the object of the inquiry, its aim, the means required, and the term by which the report will be presented to the Chamber of Deputies, or the Senate. In all cases, the setting up of inquiry committee is submitted for approval to the respective Chamber, which requires a majority of votes from the deputies and senators.

The activity of the inquiry committee is one of information on the activity of the Government or of the public administration, and it is finalized with the elaboration of a report which is submitted to the debate of the Chamber which has set it up. As a rule, the debate is followed by a vote for the approval or disapproval of the report. On the basis of the conclusions reached by the committee it is possible to determine a change of attitude in the activity of the investigated authorities, judicial bodies may be informed for the performance of criminal investigations, or one may even arrive at the promotion of a motion of censure the approval of which entails the resignation of the Government.

The control exercised by the Advocate of the People

The fundamental role of the Advocate of the People is to defend the rights and liberties of the citizens, particulary in relation to the public authorities and especially to the executive ones.

The Advocate of the People is appointed by the Senate for a duration of four years. Over the duration of the mandate, the Advocate of the People may not hold any other public or private function. The Advocate of the People exercises his duties either ex officio, or at the request of the interested persons. In order that the activity of the Advocate of the People should be efficient, the Constitution makes it obligatory for the public authorities to provide the necessary support.

The Advocate of the People is responsible only to Parliament, having the obligation to present reports to it. In these reports, the Advocate of the People may also make recommendations regarding the legislation, or the taking of measures for the protection of public freedoms.

Motion of Censure

The motion of censure represents a corollary of the parliamentary control. The Government is submitted to the vote of confidence of Parliament. But this vote of confidence is not granted once and for all. Hence, the confidence granted to the Government may also be withdrawn by having recourse to a motion of censure.

On the grounds of Article 112 under the Constitution, the motion of censure may be initiated by at least a quarter of the total number of deputies and senators. ln other words, such a motion may be signed by at least 121 Senators and Deputies. After the motion of censure is introduced, the standing bureaux of the two Chambers communicate it to the Government and convene a joint sitting of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate for presentation of the motion of censure in this forum. Three days after the presentation of the motion of censure, its debate takes place in the same joint sitting, and a vote is taken thereafter. The motion of censure is adopted, if a majority of the Deputies and Senators vote in its favour. Adoption of the motion of censure is effectively followed by the dismissal of the Government and the release of the proceedings for the investiture of a new Government.

The introduction of some motions of censure may be used as a means of chicanery, and to prevent such a practice, the Constitution provides certain limits regarding its initiation.

Thus, according to Article 112 paragraph 4 under the Constitution, in case the motion of censure is rejected by Parliament, the Deputies and Senators who have signed it may not, in the same session, initiate a new motion of censure, except the case in which the Government engages its responsibility according to Article 113 under the Constitution. In accordance with this article, the Government may engage its responsibility in front of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate, in a joint sitting, on a programme, a declaration of general policy, or of a draft bill. Within 3 days after the presentation of the programme, of the declaration of general policy, or of the draft bill, the introduction of a motion of censure and its adoption by vote in the terms established by Article 112 under the Constitution result as an effect in the dismissal of the Government. The motion provided by Article 113 under the Constitution, unlike that provided by Article 112, is a motion of censure provoked by the Government, pursuant to the fact that it wants a modification of the governing programme, or the adoption of a draft bill without its passage through the stages of the legislative procedure. The motion provided under Article 113 must be handed in within a term of 13 days. After passage of this term it remains without effects, because at the expiry of the 3 days, the programme, declaration of general policy, or draft bill are considered to be adopted. Hence, the programme, or declararion of general policy become obligatory for the Government, and the draft bill becomes law, and it has to be transmitted for promulgation to the President of Romania, who, in his turn, has the possibility to request its re-examination in a joint sitting of the two Chambers, and even to solicit the Constitutional Court to examine its constitutionality.

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