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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title III - Making Parliamentary Information Transparent

Sec. 22. Publishing Reports Created by or Provided to Parliament

All reports created by parliament or that are requested or required to be submitted to the parliament, its offices, or committees, shall be made public in their entirety, except in narrowly defined circumstances identified by law.

Due to its oversight function, parliament is also an important source of information about the executive branch. On the other hand, parliament’s representational role makes it an important vehicle for ensuring that citizens’ voices are also heard by the executive. Being at the nexus of communications between citizens and their government, parliaments create and receive information that impacts the lives of citizens and should be made available for public consumption. This includes reports developed by governmental, semi-governmental and independent institutions and organizations, including human rights commissions, constitutional bodies, offices of ombudsmen, directors of public prosecutions, audit institutions, state-owned enterprises, courts, and others. In essence, this principle seeks to affirm the right of citizens to “any output of taxpayer funding” including “information collected and produced by the government,” and the expectation that parliaments provide this information as part of their normal course of action.[1]

In many countries, in situations where a government agency or executive department submits a report to parliament, it is the responsibility of the reporting agency to make that report public. These reports are often made available on the agencies website.[2] In others, parliament takes greater responsibility in publishing reports. In Kenya, the parliamentary website contains a feed of reports created by special commissions of the parliament, as well as reports submitted to the National Assembly. For example, it may contain a report submitted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, a policy brief from the Departmental Committee on Health, or a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office.[3] In Sweden, the Committee on the Constitution collects reports on individual ministers to examine the work of the government, and makes all reports received public through the parliament’s website. The parliament, or Riksdag, also collects annual reports from commissions like the National Audit Office, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, and the Riksbank, which are made available on the Riksdag’s website as well.[4] In the Netherlands, members of the Senate are able to pose direct questions to agencies and members of the government, the answers of which are then printed by parliament and available on the website of the Senate.[5] Even where the underlying reports may be available on the websites of the reporting agency, parliament can bolster its role by also providing information on its review of the report and an additional copy, to ensure that it is preserved as part of the complete legislative electronic record.

[1] TAI, Opening Government, 2011, p. 15

[2] For example, the Canada Revenue Agency’s Annual Report to Parliament is made available on the Agency’s website at; the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office Reports to Parliament at; the Italian Intelligence System for the Security of the Republic’s Annual Report to Parliament at;

[3] Website of the Parliament of the Republic of Kenya, Homepage. Accessed 6/14/2012.

[4] Website of the Sveriges Riksdag, Reports to the Committee on the Constitution.; Submissions and Reports. Both accessed 6/14/2012.

[5] Website of the Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal, Schriftelijke vragen. Accessed 6/14/2012.