CENTRE OF GOVERNMENT PROFILE
[As at May 1998]
|The Government||The Government
The Government of the Republic of Lithuania consists of the Prime Minister and government ministers. Currently the Government comprises 15 members.
Meetings of the Government are chaired by the Prime Minister. In the absence of the Prime Minister a minister appointed by a Decree of the President of the Republic of Lithuania can act as a substitute. A minister can be temporarily substituted by another Government member, but only by appointment of the Prime Minister. If a Government member cannot participate in a meeting, they must receive permission from the Prime Minister; they can then express in written form their opinion on issues to be discussed and this opinion has to be heard at the meeting. A Government member temporarily acting as a minister or a minister acting as the Prime Minister has one vote at Government meetings.
Besides Government members, Government meetings are attended by the Government Secretary and deputy secretaries, the Chancellor of the Government, in-house State Counsellors, the Prime Ministers Spokesman for the Press, the Government Spokesman for the Press, government advisors (officials from the Government Office with expertise on specific issues) and heads of divisions of the Prime Ministers Office. Certain officials are also authorized by law to attend; these include the Chairman of the Board of Management of the Bank of Lithuania, State Controllers, the Prosecutor General, representatives of the Seimas and the Presidents Office, ministry secretaries and regional senior officials. If a minister is temporarily substituted by another Government member, one of the Ministrys deputy ministers is allowed to attend with advisory authority irrespective of the type of issues discussed. Government meetings are also attended by heads of governmental institutions, town and region mayors and other officials if the issues discussed concern their responsibilities and if they played a role in preparing them. Members of the Government may bring additional advisors with them, having arranged the matter with the Government Secretary.
Only members of the Government have the right to speak at Government meetings and they sit at the front. Any other participant has to be invited to speak by the Prime Minister. The Presidents staff tend to be observers; they are allowed to speak but do not do so very often.
The meetings of the Government are called 'Government meetings and take place once a week, usually on Wednesdays. There are rules governing the work of the Government, contained in the document entitled Regulation of Work of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Decree 728, 11 August 1994) referred to in Article 36 of Law on the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (both available in English). It should be noted that this document will change when new legislation is brought in (see below at section 33).
If the necessity arises, extra meetings are organized upon the initiative of the Prime Minister or the Acting Prime Minister. Informal meetings also take place, where political points of view are discussed between ministers. Members of the Government often dine together.
The Government Secretary (or in case of absence, his deputy) prepares a draft agenda for the Government meeting, arranging issues to be discussed, supporting material, the date and time of the meeting and, if necessary, speakers as well as officials to be invited to the meeting. The final agenda is signed by the Prime Minister or the Acting Prime Minister.
Items for discussion at Government meetings can be proposed by ministries, Government Institutions, regional administrations, town and region municipalities. Official draft decisions are submitted to the Government Secretary, who reports on them to the Prime Minister. Drafts of resolutions and other legal acts of the Government are prepared and submitted for consideration to the Government according to the order established by the Government Work Regulations. The appropriate material is delivered through the offices of government advisors and other divisions of the Prime Ministers Office usually no later than four days before the Government meeting. Government advisors and divisions of the Prime Ministers Office are free to propose items for the agenda on their own initiative.
The complete material for the meeting (that is, the agenda, drafts of resolutions (or other decisions) and related material) are distributed to all participants of the Government meeting as well as to the Seimas and the Presidents Office three working days prior to the Government meeting (usually delivered by a courier). Around 60-70 people normally attend the Government meeting and 70 copies of the material is prepared.
The agenda is uniform, not divided into separate parts. However, the most important items (requiring a political decision) are set out first in the agenda. These are mostly draft laws, or draft changes to existing laws. Items which have been discussed at separate inter-ministerial meetings or at specialized Government committees prior to the Government meeting are provided as a separate part of the agenda. Proposals can be submitted at the meeting itself, without prior notice but only upon the proposal of or with the consent of the chairperson.
|The preparation of submissions
The Prime Ministers Office, ministries, government institutions, regional administrations and municipalities can all submit proposals to the Government. The most important of these are draft law initiatives or changes to existing legislation. Around 80 per cent of draft law initiatives come from ministries. Advisors can also initiate legislation, but rarely do. They do however assist ministries in preparing draft legislation, using their sectoral area expertise.
Drafts of resolutions and other legal acts must be co-ordinated with the ministries concerned, governmental institutions, regional administrations and municipalities. If a minister has responsibility for a resolution, then they are also responsible for co-ordinating the draft with the relevant ministries. All draft legislation must be co-ordinated with the Ministry of Justice. Ministers have a legal obligation to exchange information in the preparation of legal acts. If there are different opinions on the items presented for discussion, these opinions must be heard. In case of need, opinions are also expressed by corresponding trade unions and public organizations. Every draft must be accompanied by an explanatory letter, prepared by the ministers preparing the draft law. For example, an Amendment of Civil Code will require both a draft resolution and an explanatory letter from the Minister of Labour and Social Security. It outlines the aim of the project, why it should be adopted, the compliance and the draft law itself. This letter goes to the Government meeting and may be amended. The explanatory letter should contain financial impact and is checked by an advisor on Finance and Treasury. The fact that the draft has been co-ordinated with the ministries concerned and other institutions is testified by signatures of approval put by their heads or a separate document with comments regarding the draft.
The Government Office has responsibility for co-ordinating inter-ministerial meetings regarding preparation for the Government meeting; they endeavour to 'co-ordinate patterns of co-ordination. The Government Secretary can appoint working groups to deal with a draft resolution, if necessary to avoid duplication and conflict. There is a Government Resolution which obliges ministers to attend such working groups.
In order to harmonize legislation of the Republic of Lithuania with EU legislation, all bills and other draft normative acts have to be co-ordinated with the recently established Law Bureau.
Material of the Government meetings must also be supplemented with relevant calculations and cost estimates and an opinion expressed by the Ministry of Finance.
There may be preparatory meetings or consultations with ministers to review submissions before they are included in the agenda of the Government meeting. On the instructions of the Prime Minister, preparatory reviews of certain draft projects regarding domestic or foreign policies are organized by the Prime Minister or one of the ministers. The minister appointed by the Prime Minister as the organizer chairs the meeting at which Government members and other persons concerned with the issues at hand participate; the Prime Minister or other ministers participate as necessary. Such (extra) meetings aim at finding the most favourable commonly acceptable decisions to be presented for consideration at the Government meeting. A proposal may be extended for putting off the consideration of the issue but the final decision is made at the Government meeting. In case of failure to find an acceptable solution, a proposal is extended for discussing the issue at the Government meeting, for putting off its consideration or looking for new options or even do not consider the issue altogether. There are no arbitration procedures for resolving a conflictual issue.
|Decision making and recording
Government resolutions (other decisions) are passed at Government meetings by the majority vote of Government members. Open vote is applied provided different opinions about a particular resolution (decision) are expressed and if open vote is required by at least one Government member. Neither the Prime Minister, nor any other minister has the right to exercise a veto.
Minutes are taken at all Government meetings, overseen by the Government Secretary. All decisions passed at Government meetings are recorded in writing and minutes of the meeting are prepared for signing by an official of the Prime Minister's Office (usually by the Head of Document Editorial Division). The minutes of the Government meeting include the date, number of the meeting, members, titles of issues to be discussed, name of the reporter who has submitted an issue for consideration, names of speakers as well as each decision passed. Each considered issue at the Government meeting is recorded. The decisions passed at a Government meeting are registered and filed by the Document Editorial Division of the Prime Minister's Office. If a draft of a Government resolution or law was considered, records of decisions include whether the decisions were approved, and if necessary relevant institutions or officials will be instructed in due time to review these drafts (the records should state clearly who co-ordinates these activities). If required, the records also state which supplements or amendments must be made, and with whom the reviewed draft should be co-ordinated.
Decisions taken at the meeting which do not require Government resolutions to be passed, are registered only in the form of records of decisions. They are non-regulatory decisions, often regarding organizational issues, such as instructions to particular institutions to assess a particular issue and prepare drafts of relevant legal acts.
The prepared minutes of the Government meeting are approved by the Government Secretary and signed by the Prime Minister or Acting Prime Minister.
After each Government meeting the Government Press Office prepares and via the media officially announces the decisions passed and their basis. These official announcements are signed by the Head of the Government Press Office.
|Implementation of decisions
Records of decisions are sent to executive offices and other addressees concerned not later than in two working days after the signing of the minutes. The official in charge of recording the minutes must ensure that the Correspondence Sector of House Administration Division of the Prime Minister's Office sends them to the necessary institutions (if required, relevant Divisions of the Prime Minister's Office or government advisors shall compile such lists of addressees).
The Government supervises the implementation of decisions passed by the Government via contacts with ministers, heads of governmental institutions, commissions formed by the Government and officials of the Prime Minister's Office. The implementation of Government resolutions and Prime Minister's instructions is monitored by government advisors and divisions of the Prime Minister's Office. Government advisors and heads of divisions of the Prime Minister's Office inform the Prime Minister and the Government Secretary of those Government resolutions and other decisions for which implementation is unsatisfactory and make proposals on how to eliminate barriers to implementation. Before each Government meeting each minister is presented with a list of the decisions and instructions that have failed to be implemented on time. Officials of the Prime Minister's Office (usually the Government Secretary) may also intervene if decisions are not implemented in the way the Government has intended. Such officials may, if necessary, require ministries to report on the status of implementation of these decisions. It is not possible , however, to monitor the implementation of all decisions that are made; also, ministers may sometimes request and be granted postponement of implementation.
|Legislative and regulatory procedures
The Government has the right of legislative initiative; it is in charge of drafting legislative and regulatory texts or amendments to existing laws and presenting them to the Seimas (the Lithuanian Parliament) for consideration (Article 20 of the Law on the Government of the Republic of Lithuania). Working groups or working commissions may be formed by the Government or the Prime Minister to draft legislative and regulatory texts. However, in general the Government instruct line ministries (one or some of them) to prepare draft legislation. The minister is responsible for the implementation of such instructions and, subject to the procedure established by the Regulations of the Work of the Government, must present the drafted legal and regulatory texts for the Government's consideration. Normative legal acts drafted by ministries prior to Government's consideration must be co-ordinated with the ministries concerned, governmental institutions, executive institutions of local authorities and the Legal Bureau under the Ministry of European Affairs (see section (14) under Preparation of Submissions to the Government Meeting). All draft legislation must be reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.
The Law Enforcement Division of the Government Office reviews all draft laws, to check for consistency with existing laws and the constitution. First, drafted resolutions and other regulatory texts to be presented for the Government's consideration must be co-ordinated with the relevant divisions of the Prime Minister's Office, including the government advisors on related issues. Then they are passed to the Law Enforcement Division of the Prime Minister's Office (Paragraph 40 of the Working Regulations of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania). If drafted legal acts fail to meet the established legal technical requirements, the Law Enforcement Division and government advisors have the right to return these drafts to the ministries and governmental institutions which had prepared them and require them to be properly corrected. If (as rarely happens) they are unable to reach agreement, then the legislation sent to the Prime Minister will be accompanied by a letter from the Head of the Legal Division saying what is problematic about the draft. The Prime Minister will then send them back to the ministry.(1) If the remarks are serious it will also go back to the Ministry of Justice. It is extremely rare that the Prime Minister agrees to sign something if the legal division says it is not correct, although it can happen, in which case it might go to the Government meeting again. It sometimes takes up to four days to check legislation; less if it is very well drafted or very short.
The Legal Division of the Seimas also analyses registered drafted laws and ensures that these drafts do not contradict presently valid laws and that they meet the established legal technical rules. If the drafted law is presented by Seimas members or the President, it is sent to the Legal Bureau under the Ministry of European Affairs which then not later than in ten days from the date of the receipt of the draft must prepare findings whether the draft is compatible with the legislation of the European Union (Article 140 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania).
There is no central service or other state institution specifically for the purpose of evaluating the budgetary implications of legislative and regulatory texts or for assessing their economic impacts. However, drafted laws which may have impact on national budget revenues and expenditure as well as drafted laws on taxes and special funds are assessed by the Budget and Finance Committee of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, while the Economy Committee presents its findings to the Seimas on laws of economic reforms and other drafted regulatory texts (Article 63, 64 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania). The Ministry of Finance considers the financial implications of laws and other regulatory drafts as well as prepares proposals on how presently valid laws in Lithuania should meet international legal norms.
The institution in charge of reviewing legislative and regulatory drafts to ensure their compatibility with European Union legislation and norms is the Legal Bureau under the Ministry of European Affairs, established by Resolution No. 156 ?On the Establishment of the Legal Bureau under the Ministry of European Affairs passed by the 'Government on 24 February 1997. After co-ordination with relevant ministries and prior to their presentation to the Government's consideration, draft legal acts should be co-ordinated with the Legal Bureau under the Ministry of European Affairs subject to the procedure established by the regulations of this office.
(1) This process is partially dependent on the current Prime Minister; the previous Prime Minister did not check everything in this way. Now the Prime Minister or his Counsellor-Advisor, reads everything.
|Subordinate Bodies of the Council of Ministers|
|Institutions at the Centre of Government
In order to minimize the work of the Government meeting and rationalize the decision making process, the Government approved Resolution No. 371 on 16 April 1997 according to which the following four specialized Government committees were formed:
The Government members concerned with the subject matter of these committees or Vice- ministers authorized by them, discuss the most important drafted decisions requiring political discussion, prior to the Government meeting. They generally meet about once a month. Each has a permanent chair and the participation of other members depends upon affected interests. When drafted resolutions that have been discussed at one of the committees comes up at the Government meeting, the Chairman of the relevant committee briefly informs the meeting of the agreement the ministers have come to or conclusions of their discussions. The Prime Minister appoints the Chairman and the deputy for the meetings of the specialized committees.
Another meeting taking place at the centre of government is that of the Ministers Secretaries, who meet the day before the Government meeting. They discuss all the questions covered by the agenda, and try to eradicate any lack of clarity in the legislative proposals.
Structures providing support and advice to the Prime Minister and the Government
The Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister are serviced by the Office of the Prime Minister headed by the Government Secretary. The work of this office is laid out in Article 44 of the Law on the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. The law does not specify the structure of this office, which is presented by the Government Secretary to the Prime Minister for approval. The current structure is shown at Appendix I. Personnel in the office fall into two main categories: 'A level political appointments and 'B level non-political appointments. The former are called 'counsellors, the latter 'advisors (permanent members of staff). This division of officials is replicated throughout the bureaucracy; the Prime Minister appoints vice-ministers and they are 'A level officials. Ministers appoint the Secretary of their Ministry, and they are 'B level officials. The total staff of the Government Office is about 150; currently around twenty of these are Counsellors. The Government Office retains a fairly constant level of staff and is unlikely to grow; as in many countries, public opinion is that there are too many civil servants and expansion of central agencies would be unpopular.
Legislation has been drafted (on 28 April 1998) by a working group chaired by the Minister of Public Administration Reform and Local Government, to formalise and clarify the lines of responsibility. (Article 45. Government Chancellor and Government Secretary.).
Article 45 states:
The Government Secretary and the Chancellor are the two key personnel in the Government Office. The Government Secretary is a non-political appointment and he is in charge of the activities of the Office, co-ordinating proposals and presenting them to the Prime Minister. Advice to the Prime Minister and the Government on non-political issues is provided by the Government Secretary and his deputies, government advisors on specific issues and policy areas and divisions of the Prime Minister's Office.
The Chancellor heads the State Councillors Office (sometimes called the Chancellery) within the Government Office, advising the Prime Minister on political issues and resolving political issues of implementation and co-ordination of Government programme. There is an Under Chancellor, who is responsible for the relationship of the Government Office with the Seimas. He tracks legal acts through Parliament and informs the Chancellery about any discussion.
An important element of the work of the Government Office relates to the 'government programme, detailed in two documents. First, the Action Programme of the Government is a plan of governmental policy for the next three years, broadly based on the Manifesto. Second, the Government Office prepares an Implementation Plan. This document goes for discussion to all ministries and the government during the process of preparation. The Prime Minister authorises ministries to prepare comments and proposals. Then the Government Secretary issues a decree and sets up a working group of three people, to summarise ministries proposals and present the plan to the government. While the Action Programme is a political document, containing all legal acts that will be submitted to the Seimas, the implementation plan is quite detailed: every action point is accompanied by the responsible ministry and a date by which it is to be completed (unfortunately it is not available in English). For example, the current Action Programme contains an amendment to the 8th article on tax administration, and in the Implementation Plan the Ministry of Finance is designated as responsible. This document is widely discussed; it is co-ordinated with all ministries after which the information is summarised and sent to ministries for a second co-ordination phase, during which all ministries present further comments. Most discussion over the programme of implementation is regarding the terms of implementation and who should be the first to do something concrete - ministries resist being flagged up as the responsible ministry as they will be if they are named first. The constitution lays down the formal process of making the Action Programme and the Implementation Plan, so both are produced every time there is an election and the government has to report upon progress once every year. According to the constitution, the Prime Minister has to prepare the plan within fifteen days after the election.
Under Article 45 of the newly adopted Law on the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, the Government Office thus falls into two main parts: advisors and counsellors (or state consultant). The advisors in the Government Office are grouped into policy fields or sectoral units which mirror line ministries. These are:
There are also horizontal units within the Government Office;
The most important of the above is the legal division; 95 per cent of laws pass through this office. After drafts submitted by ministers have been checked by advisors, they come to the legal division, who check for consistency with laws and the constitution. The legal division have to cover all policy areas and in addition they have the task of presenting the Government in court; defending the state when it is charged with wrongful use of the penal code, for example, wrongful imprisonment. This caseload (around 60 cases at present) places an additional burden on the seven staff in the division. All those in the legal division are lawyers. Most tend to have worked in public institutions, for example the Supreme Court, Public Prosecutions or one of the line ministries.
The legal division must co-ordinate with several ministries. First, all draft laws or changes to laws have to be signed off by the Ministry of Justice, so the legal division must co-ordinate with them. Relations between the legal division and the Ministry of Justice are good; after all, they are in the same profession. Some draft laws or changes to laws have to be signed off by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture or other interested parties. Since August 1997 they must also be checked with the legal bureau in the Ministry of European Affairs (a professor of International Affairs). Relationships with line ministries depends upon individual ministers; how they work and the extent to which they conform with the rules governing the preparation of draft laws. A key task for the legal division is to check the government action programme, which can take the division 2-3 weeks to check over, examining whether the responsibilities are properly allocated and whether the acts proposed are feasible and consistent with current legislation.
There are some other units within the government which have some involvement with central decision-making. The judicial branch is separate from the Government Office; in the law on the Supreme Courts, it states that the Supreme Court should play only an advisory role in the policy-making process and the Chairman of the Supreme Court participates in meetings only if necessary. The State Control Office and the General Prosecutors Office are involved in Government meetings on the same basis. The Bank of Lithuania is involved on a slightly different basis - their chair always participates in Government meetings.
Senior staff and advisors to the Head of Government
The Government Secretary heads the Government Office and advises the Prime Minister on the most appropriate structure for the Office. His responsibility is to co-ordinate proposals, comments and information from the advisors, consolidate them and prepare them for the Prime Minister and the Government meeting. The heads of his divisions participate in the Government meeting. In general, the Government Secretary deals with ministry secretaries ('B level officials) rather than ministers.
The status of the Chancellor changed mostly because of the new Law on the Government. His principle responsibilities are co-ordination and the overseeing of the implementation of the government programme and he receives details of outstanding assignments. He has around 20 counsellors reporting to him; 'A level political appointees. Around half of those in the Chancellery previously worked with the current Prime Minister and his party. The other half are experts in the fields of law, communications or some other expertise needed by the Government and were not necessarily close to the ruling party on appointment - they were appointed on merit. Around 30 per cent of the counsellors come from business. In general the Chancellor deals with ministers rather than ministry secretaries. Two counsellors collect information concerning outstanding governmental assignments; they are called the Controlling Section.
The Chancellery views the activities of the Government Office through the lens of the Government Programme. The Chancellery receives information about outstanding assignments, including explanations from government advisors as to why they are still outstanding. Implementation work can be postponed, and often is. There are no checks of implementation of the various acts with the various ministries - there are not sufficient staff. And direct control is not popular; public opinion says that the are already too many civil servants in the Government of Lithuania (especially at the centre).
The Government Office prepares the budgeting law. It is common to discuss the law on budgeting many times. Line ministries are willing to participate in settling that and on this occasion they all send representatives to the Government meeting. The Minister of Finance is obviously crucial here and co-ordinates with the Prime Minister; all line ministries negotiate with Ministry of Finance. The Secretary of the Ministry of Finance has nothing like the same decision making powers. The Prime Minister does not have independent financial or budgetary advisors. Only finance and treasury advisors from the Government Office are responsible for checking budget law 'independently and they co-ordinate with the Ministry of Finance. The Prime Minister discusses the budget with them. There is no separate counsellor for finance and treasury, but there is a possibility of one being appointed.
In the work of the Government Office, co-ordination between the political and non-political appointees is a problem, which is why the law is being redrafted to formalise the division. Currently, the relative responsibilities of the Government Secretary and the Chancellor are unclear. Advisors do not commonly negotiate with counsellors in order to present a unified front. They report to the Government Secretary and their direct contact tends to be with him - the counsellors also send their documents to the Secretary but co-ordinate principally with the Chancellor. The relative roles of advisors and counsellors vary according to sectoral area. In Banking and Finance for example, the Advisor is an expert and the equivalent post in the Chancellery is vacant, so the Advisor has considerable autonomy. Counsellors are more likely to be generalists than advisors, although there are some experts among them.
In partial response to this lack of clarity, the current Prime Minister has created the post of 'Advisor-Counsellor. This post is now key (and recognised as such by several interviewees), an 'A level political appointee who has direct access to the Prime Minister. His brief is to co- ordinate the information of both the political and administrative sides of the government office. All counsellors documents are now sent to him and both advisors and counsellors discuss any problems with him. The current appointee is a generalist but has the Prime Ministers trust and ear and was described by one official as having 'responsibility for the Government. The post has introduced new uncertainty into the lines of responsibility as the Advisor-Counsellors position relative both to the Chancellor and the Government Secretary is unclear.
The legal division have a giant task, which could require more staff. It is currently difficult for them, with only seven staff (and the additional caseload resulting from their role in defending the State) to specialise in particular policy areas, which might be beneficial. After all, each ministry has had to contact the Ministry of Justice (where there are 68 staff), so generalist legal experts have already looked at draft laws. However, there is no consensus within the Government Office regarding the role of the legal division. The current Chancellor would like to see the legal division broken up and distributed across the sectoral areas within the government office.
Finally, the composition of the coalition government will affect co-ordination and the conduct of government business. Currently there is one dominant coalition partner, the Homeland Union (the Lithuanian Conservatives) which has 70 seats and two markedly smaller coalition partners, the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party with 16 seats and the Centre Union of Lithuania which has 13 seats. Although two ministers (Foreign Affairs and Defence) come from one of the smaller parties, their appointment was for personal reasons rather than any need to appease the coalition partners. Thus the coalition tends to act in concert; a more equally divided coalition might bring new co-ordination problems.
|There are, at present, the following line
|FOR FURTHER INFORMATION||Mr K. Aleinikovas, Deputy Head,
General Division, Government Office
M. Labutienne, Ministry of Public Administration Reform