CENTRE OF GOVERNMENT PROFILE
[As at May 1998]
|The Government||The Government
The Government as a collegiate body consists of the Prime Minister, government ministers (including ministers of state, ministers and ministers delegated, attached to the Prime Minister), and the secretaries of state (i.e. deputy ministers) which are designated as members of the Government. Other secretaries of state may attend meetings of the Government in place of the minister, but they do not possess the right to vote.
Meetings of the Government are chaired by the Prime Minister. According to Article 87 of the Romanian Constitution, "The President of Romania may participate in meetings of the Government debating upon matters of national interest with regard to foreign policy, the defence of the country, ensurance of public order, and on request by the Prime Minister, in other instances as well". The President chairs the Government meetings that he attends. However, the current President has not yet attended any of these meetings.
Attendance at Government meetings is not restricted to the Prime Minister, government ministers, state secretaries and, where appropriate, the President. Other regular participants include, inter alia, the Secretary-General of the Government; counsellors advising the Prime Minister; the Director and other officials from the Directorate for Analysis and Legal Advice in the General Secretariat, who record the Government's deliberations and decisions. Others may attend by invitation of the Prime Minister.
Meetings of the Government are scheduled every Thursday, lasting exactly three hours, from 10 am to 1 pm. An Executive Bureau, comprising the Prime Minister, the ministers of state and the ministers of Justice, Defence and the Interior, existed for some time during the early 1990s. However, this structure is no longer operational.
The final agenda of Government meetings is approved by the Prime Minister on the proposal of the Secretary-General of the Government. In practice, the agenda is drawn up by the Secretary-General and tends to be communicated to the Prime Minister shortly before the Government meets (usually two days in advance of the meeting).
Drafts for the agenda can be proposed by the Prime Minister, the government ministers, the Secretary-General and, where appropriate, the President. To be included on the agenda, drafts must be submitted to the Secretary-General at least one week in advance of a Government meeting. The agenda is decided every Monday, during a special meeting attended by the two general secretaries and two directors responsible for the machinery of Government and for juridical and legal questions as well as the general secretary of the Ministry of Justice and the Secretary of State in the Ministry for Relations with Parliament. The agenda, together with the necessary supporting documentation, is to be distributed to the members of the Government at least forty-eight hours before the meeting takes place. But later additions to the agenda are not infrequent; it is also possible for proposals to be tabled directly at the Government meeting of the Government without having been circulated in advance, provided that the Prime Minister, as the chairman, agrees to such a request.
|The preparation of submissions
The current "Methodology for the preparation of normative acts" was adopted by the Government in December 1997. It sets out a sequenced executive policy preparation process leading up to collegiate decision-taking by the Government.
Under the current methodology, the ministry proposing a normative act has primary responsibility for ensuring proper consultation with other relevant ministries and central offices. Ministries to be routinely consulted include the Ministry of Justice, which must confirm the legality of all draft normative acts; the Ministry of Finance, to which all proposals with financial implications must be submitted; and the Council for Reform, which has to be consulted on all matters that relate to the restructuring of the economy and institutional reform. The ministries and other central offices have at least five days to respond officially to draft proposals. Often, a first official response is followed by further interministerial consultation.
Draft proposals are submitted to the Secretary-General of the Government and must be accompanied by statements setting out the results of interministerial co-ordination. There is no formal requirement that interministerial consensus needs to be reached before a matter can be put to the Government; sponsoring ministries can insist on consideration of a proposal by the Government even in the case of interministerial disagreement.
After a draft legislative act has been submitted to the Secretary-General of the Government, it is passed on to the Directorate for Analysis and Legal Advice in the General Secretariat and to the Legislative Council. The former is asked to assess, inter alia, whether the proposal meets formal requirements; is in line with the Government's legislative programme; and is compatible with existing law. The Directorate is also expected to comment on the economic and financial implications of proposed normative acts; at present, however, it does not possess appropriately trained personnel to carry out such an assessment.
The attributions of the Legislative Council are set out in the Law on the Establishment, Organisation and Operation of the Legislative Council of November 1993 and the Regulations on the Organisation and Operation of the Legislative Council of February 1996. The Legislative Council is constituted as a specialised consultative body to Parliament, but it also fulfils an important role in the executive (i.e. preparliamentary) stages of legislation. Thus, all drafts of normative acts that are to be submitted to the Government must first be considered by the Legislative Council. It is, inter alia, required to remark on the legality of the proposed measures; their internal consistency; their adherence to accepted standards of legislative technique; and their impact on existing legislation and the legal system as a whole. Consultation of the Legislative Council is mandatory; however, it acts in an advisory capacity, and its opinions are not binding on the Government. The deadlines within which the Legislative Council has to submit its opinions are tight. Thus, ordinary bills have to be assessed within ten days, bills to be submitted under emergency procedures within two days, and emergency statutory orders pursuant to Article 114 (4) of the Romanian Constitution within twenty-four hours.
The opinions of the Directorate for Analysis and Legal Advice and the Legislative Council form part of the submission to the Government.
As part of its efforts to improve the organisation and operation of the central administration, the present Government has emphasised its resolve to strengthen the structures and procedures for the preparation of Government decisions. In particular, it has stressed the need for greater delegation within the Government administration; improved interministerial communication and consultation; and more effective means of countering the effects of departmentalisation by strengthening the sectoral co-ordinating capacities of institutions at the centre of Government:
|Decision making and recording
According to the Statute on the Organisation and Operation of the Romanian Government, decisions by the Government are taken by a simple majority. The Prime Minister enjoys an absolute veto. In practice, however, votes tend to be avoided and decisions are taken consensually.
Cabinet discussions and decisions are recorded by staff of Directorate of Analysis and Legal Advice. On the basis of this record, the Directorate for Evidence in the General Secretariat prepares a 'record of decision' for each item on the Government's agenda. This work is carried out in close co-operation with the Directorate of Analysis and Legal Advice. The latter is responsible for reviewing all Government decisions, in particular with a view to ensuring that any amendments to legislative proposals that were adopted in the course of the Government's deliberations are put in the appropriate form. The records of decision are distributed by the General-Secretary to the Prime Minister, the ministers concerned and, where appropriate, to the President and Parliament. They typically set out the substance of the decision reached; identify the minister(s) concerned; and, where appropriate, specify implementation deadlines and reporting requirements.
|Implementation of decisions
The primary responsibility for ensuring the timely implementation of Government decisions lies with the individual ministries. In addition, the Directorate for Evidence maintains a computerised information system designed to monitor the implementation of Government decisions. Where the ministries fail to provide status reports on time or to implement decisions within the deadlines set by the Government, the Directorate for Evidence will pursue the matter.
|Legislative and regulatory procedures
The drafting of normative acts is principally carried out by the legal services that exist within each ministry. They perform this function in close consultation with the staff of the ministerial line divisions.
Whilst drafting is not centralised within the Government, the involvement of the Ministry of Justice, the Legislative Council and the General Secretariat's Directorate for Analysis and Legal Advice helps to ensure that common legislative standards are maintained. It is worth noting in this respect that in recent years the review of legislative proposals from the perspective of their compatibility with European Community Law has steadily increased in importance. Thus, in addition to its three main divisions dealing with public law, private law and legislative documentation, the Legislative Council has a separate department concerned with the harmonisation of Romanian and EC law. According to Article 22 of the Regulations on the Organisation and Operation of the Legislative Council of February 1996,
In addition, the Ministry of Justice has a special Directorate dealing with international relations and European integration, and, in examining the legal aspects of submissions to the Government, the Directorate for Analysis and Legal Advice in the General Secretariat is also required to consider their compatibility with EC law. Moreover, the Council for European Integration at the centre of government (see below), also has a Directorate for Legislative Harmonisation. However, whilst the harmonisation of national law with EC law is clearly an important political priority of the current Government, there is still a lack of qualified personnel who are sufficiently trained in both Romanian and EC law to perform a systematic, comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the congruence of national legislative measures with the rapidly evolving law of the European Union.
|Subordinate Bodies of the Council of Ministers|
|Institutions at the Centre of Government
There are numerous central institutions at the disposal of the Government to support its work. Following a number of reorganisations over the past few years, they include, at present:
The organisation of the centre of government follows no single principle: some institutions have a horizontal remit, such as the Council for European Integration, whilst others deal with highly specific policy issues, such as the National Agency for the Control of Strategic Exports. Some, such the Council for Reform, have a differentiated organisational structure consisting of several departments; others are essentially single-unit bodies. As regards the preparation of the Government agenda, the General Secretariat is of special importance. It comprises two main organisational units, each headed by a deputy general-secretary:
The Department for Local Public Administration is under the direct authority of the Prime Minister.
Whilst the number of institutions situated at the centre of government is comparatively large, their capacity to serve as agents of central co-ordination should not be overestimated. First, there is the danger of fragmentation at the centre. Given the proliferation of central offices, it is sometimes difficult to establish a clear division of responsibilities amongst the central institutions and between the latter and line ministries. In an institutionally crowded centre, co-ordination can prove difficult to achieve. In this respect, the division of labour between the Government's General Secretariat, on the one hand, and the host of specialised agencies, with their own heads that are not subordinated to the Government's Secretary-General, is a particularly sensitive issue.
Second, some concerns have been raised regarding the practice of putting ministers in charge of central offices. Lead by ministers rather than high-ranking administrators, central offices can easily take on the character of ministries en miniature. Instead of acting as agents of co-ordinating in a particular policy sector, they are thus prone to developing into countervailing forces vis-ā-vis line ministries. This trend is reinforced under the conditions of coalition government, where the inherent tensions between line ministries and central institutions with a cross-departmental remit can be intensified by interparty conflicts. In this connection, it should also be noted that, with the partial exception of the General Secretariat and the Council for Reform, central offices largely lack the formal powers necessary to act as agents of cross-departmental co-ordination. In particular, they do not act as effective filters for proposals of line ministers submitted to Government via the Secretary-General.
Within the institutions at the centre of government, primarily administrative support functions, non-partisan policy advice and political support and advisory functions are not, at present, distinguished with reasonable clarity. This is not primarily an organisational problem, but reflects the current state of public service legislation that does not establish a clear division between political appointees and party-politically neutral career civil servants. It should be noted in this connection that the draft Law on the Statute of the Civil Servant, designed to create a professional career public service that is party-politically neutral, has been submitted to the Parliament..
The co-ordination capacities of the centre cannot, of course, be understood in isolation from its constitutive institutional environment. In this connection, at least two issues merit brief mention: the relations between the centre and the line ministries; and the links between deconcentrated field administration and central government authorities. As regards the former, the Government's initiative to appoint non-partisan secretaries-general in all ministries represents an important step. The Governmental Decree on the Appointment of General Secretaries within ministries was adopted in January 1998. The ministerial secretary-general is the top-ranking public servant within the ministry and will act as its administrative head; as such, his position is comparable to that of a British permanent secretary or a German Staatssekretär. One of the main reasons behind the creation of this new post is the Government's intention to improve both intraministerial and interministerial communication and co-ordination. Thus, the ministerial secretary-general acts as the chief link between ministerial line units and the political leadership of the ministry, including the minister, the state secretaries (deputy ministers) and their directors. Equally important, the secretaries-general constitute a network, with the Secretary-General of the Government at its centre. For example, weekly meetings of all ministerial secretaries-general are envisaged, chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General of the Government. These meetings are expected, amongst other things, to play a key role in the preparation of the meetings of the Government.
A second major influence on the co-ordination capacities of the centre are the relations between the decentralised (territorial) units of state administration and the central authorities. Again, the centre of government might, at first sight, seem very well-placed to exercise a strong co-ordinating role. The county prefects (and the prefect of the municipality of Bucharest) are directly subordinated to the Department for Local Public Administration. This Department comes under the direct authority of the Prime Minister. According to Articles 108 and 109 of the Law on Local Public Administration of November 1991 (subsequently amended), the prefect, "As representative of the Government (...) shall supervise the activity of the local and of the county councils and of the mayors, in order that it be carried out according to the law" and "shall control the decentralised public services of the ministries and of the other central bodies from the territorial-administrative units" (quoted from the English translation of the Law on Local Public Administration of November 1991 (subsequently amended), published by The Government of Romania, Bucharest 1996) (see also Article 122 of the Romanian Constitution).
Although the direct subordination of the prefects to the central Department of Local Public Administration suggests a powerful role for the centre in territorial government, its actual co-ordinating powers vis-ā-vis subcentral authorities are strictly limited. This applies, first, in relation to local government (local and county authorities). The latter are explicitly not subordinated to the prefect (Article 108 (2)), who is essentially restricted to the control of the legality of the acts of local councils, county councils, and mayors. More importantly, the prefect does not appear to be in a strong position vis-ā-vis the deconcentrated field services of state administration. In particular, the prefect's office does not really act as a general tier of deconcentrated state administration, that would integrate several, if not most, deconcentrated state services; rather, the latter exist independently of each other, with their own heads, who are directly answerable to their respective ministries. As a result, the prefect's capacity to act not just as a representative of the Government, but as a focal point for central-local relations, an intermediary between centre and territory, is limited.
The latter remarks underline an obvious, but nonetheless important point: the organisation and operation of the centre of government needs to be understood in the context of its constitutive institutional and political environment. As regards the institutional environment, the relations between the centre, line ministries and decentralised state administration are obviously of critical importance; but other institutions, notably the Presidency and the bicameral Parliament, are of equally critical importance. Of no less significance are the political conditions under which the centre of government operates. There is no need here to discuss this point in detail. Suffice it to mote that the present Government is constituted as what might be called a 'coalition of coalitions', i.e. a coalition government made of the multi-party Democratic Convention of Romania, the Social Democratic Union (composed of the Democratic Party and the Romanian Democratic Socialist Party), and the Hungarian Democratic Alliance of Romania, as the party of the Hungarian minority. It scarcely needs emphasising that under the conditions of complex coalition government, whose members cover a very wide ideological-programmatic spectrum, the political-administrative management skills of the centre face particular challenges.
These challenges are compounded by the inevitable problems of establishing reliable routine operating procedures. Administrative organisation relies in part on the authoritative definition of formal structures and procedures to operate effectively; but formal organisation needs to be complemented by informal routines and dependable interinstitutional personal networks if it is to operate flexibly. In other words, institutional consolidation at the centre of government is not just a matter of a clear definition of organisational and staffing principles, powers, responsibilities and resources. Consolidation is equally dependent on the gradual development of informal routines and stable networks both within the central administration and extending into its constitutive institutional environment.