The Financial Autonomy of Parliaments
The autonomy of parliaments means organisational, functional, administrative and financial autonomy. Legally, the principle of the parliaments’ autonomy is contained within the constitution of a state.
The budgetary autonomy of parliaments is necessary to guarantee the independent fulfilment of constitutional functions. The aspects of budgetary autonomy are normally reflected in the preparation of the budget and its verification. They are guaranteed de jure by the constitution or an appropriate legal act. In Estonia, the basis for the compilation, implementation, the accounting of implementation, and reporting of the parliament’s budget is the “Law of the State Budget”. It provides the procedure for the compilation, approval and implementation of the state budget. Several exceptions apply to Parliament (due to its status as a constitutional institution). One exception is the freedom not to take into account the norms and levels set by the government when projecting operational costs. Also, the minister of finance does not have the right to alter or delete sums, which have been fixed in the draft budget of the Parliament, the President, the State Audit Office, the Chancellor of Justice and the State Court, when assessing the preliminary state budget.
Despite the fact that in most countries the parliament’s budget forms a part of the national budget, budgetary independence of parliaments is still dominant. According to a study presented at the conference of the General Secretaries of Parliaments in 1998, 2/3 of participating parliaments are independent when compiling their budget, whilst for the budget compilation of 1/3 of the parliaments, intervention by the ministry of finance is taken into account.1
1See Comfort A. (2000) Comparison of organisation and administrative arrangements in EU national parliaments. European Parliament, Budgetary Affairs Series; Couderc M. (1998) The administrative and financial autonomy of parliamentary assemblies. Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments (ASGP). Moskow’s session.