Towards a More Knowledge-centred Public Policy, Legislative Process and Public Administration – Government Agency-Commissioned Studies from 1999-2001
As a result of a discussion among the members of the Riigikogu Toimetised editorial board, a questionnaire with cover letter from MPs Anti Liiv (Estonian Centre Party) and Ivar Tallo (Mõõdukad) was sent to all cabinet ministers to get an overview of stated budget-funded surveys commissioned between 1999-2001 – the number, cost and respondents, the relationship of surveys to legislation and way in which they were commissioned.
There were three primary points of departure:
- There are problems in Estonian legislation with conflict between EU and national legal norms. Ditto in the area of analysis of legislation’s socioeconomic and budgetary effects. These problems have been attributed to a shortage of experts, time, and budgetary resources and deficiencies in interagency coordination.
- The policy options contained in draft laws are not based on analysis of Estonian society. Thus, principles and regulatory mechanisms that evolved in other countries are adopted in an expedited manner in the course of European integration; yet such principles and mechanisms do not necessarily suit Estonian values, knowledge, skills and potential. Analyses of cover letters accompanying bills introduced in the Riigikogu show the same thing. We desired to know how much government institutions commissioned studies connected with new legislation.
- A theoretical point of departure was also the concept of responsible policy-making – the need for analysis of bills’ social effects and risks. The practical point of departure here involved the problem of administrative capacity that has emerged in the implementation of laws and treaties – is it sufficient? If the social facts (public administration, state budget) do not support the legal standards of some new law, the problem can be at once political, legal and economic. The better legislators are at analyzing and considering a law’s budgetary, economic and social effects, the better the law will fulfill its goals.
Results of the parliament study. A comparison of responses by government institution proved difficult due to our insistence on unified definitions and documentation requirements, but the data do permit us to describe the general distribution of studies by ministry and to describe the main issues in how studies are commissioned.
On the basis of responses to letters from MPs (interpolations) we can say the following as of fall 2002 with regard to the commissioning of field studies by government agencies:
- from 1999-2001, ten ministries and the State Chancellery commissioned around 400 studies and analyses, amounting to an expenditure of over 100 million kroons of state money. Social studies on general problems in society accounted for only 3%.
- In connection with the drafting of laws (ex ante) and appraising effects of laws in force (ex post) including effects vis-à-vis EU law, three ministries – education, justice and environment – and the office of the minister of population commissioned a total of 106 studies to the tune of 41,083,323 kroons, accounting for 38% of the total cost of all surveys. The main share lies in the purview of the ministry of the environment and contains nature field studies. Most ministries do not document the purpose for which a survey is commissioned (such as new legislation), making it difficult for them to provide specific answers.
The main goal of this study was to gain an overview of the reasons ministries commissioned studies, since first of all, information on studies conducted with Estonia’s relatively limited budgetary funds seldom reaches the general public, and secondly, the information from the studies is not used sufficiently in the making of new laws, even though laws in liberal democracies are central organizers of market and society relations and are principally responsible for ensuring sustainable development. A number of political and administrative proposals can be made on the basis of our study – including improving the study commissioning process and reinforcing conditions for the formation of a more knowledge-centered policy-making and legislative process and public administration with Estonia’s fairly limited public monies.