The purpose of the book is to investigate parliaments’ capacity to oversee government activities, policies and budget legislation. By analysing the survey data that the World Bank Institute in collaboration with the Inter-Parliamentary Union collected from 120 parliaments, Pelizzo and Stapenhurst show what tools are available to parliaments worldwide, which tools are more or less common, how oversight capacity can be estimated, how oversight capacity is related to other institutional and constitutional factors. In addition to discussing the conditions under which oversight capacity is greater, the authors perform some analyses to assess the policy implications of oversight capacity. Specifically, they look at the impact of oversight capacity on the quality of democracy and on the level of good governance.
"Legislatures legislate while executives execute, but legislatures must also oversee the executive so that what is executed is in line with what was legislated. Legislative oversight of government is not only an important aspect of executive-legislative relations, it is essential for the quality of democracy. Pelizzo and Stapenhurst show that oversight is crucial; that it involves not just capacity (tools) but also effectiveness (ability, desire), and that greater capacity does not necessarily mean greater effectiveness. While accountability still means different things in different countries, and in different political systems, this book refines the notion, presents extensive comparative data, and strengthens our understanding of how and why legislative capacity affects the effectiveness of government oversight. This short book packs a mighty research punch – if only legislatures could be as effective!"
—Reuven Y. Hazan, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
"This thoughtful, comprehensive, and practical piece of work can make an important contribution to understanding how to curb government corruption. Its succinct survey of the literature on the effectiveness of oversight tools and accessible presentation of the Stapenhurst Pelizzo Index of Legislative Oversight (SPILO) demonstrates the analytic utility of bringing together tools for internal oversight tools alongside external contextual factors to demonstrate just when legislative oversight actually works. And its cogent discussion of political will demonstrates one way that voters can help to provide impetus for increased legislative effectiveness in compelling a government to be held accountable for its actions. It is a step forward in the development of this interesting and practical approach to policy research."
—Mark Baskin, University at Albany-SUNY
Introduction. 1. Tools of Legislative Oversight in the Lower Chambers. 2. Tools of Legislative Oversight in Upper Chambers. 3. Tools of Budgetary Oversight. 4. Legislative ethics and codes of conduct. 5. Oversight Capacity: new and old measures 6. Control, Democracy, Good Governance and Development?. 7. Conclusions.