Riigikogu speaker and former prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) wrote a letter to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), in which he called Kallas to tell ministers to participate in Riigikogu committee meetings, since they often send other officials to take part for them.
"In the interest of good cooperation going forward, I am asking you to direct the government members' attention to their obligations stemming from the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act," Ratas wrote.
The Riigikogu speaker pointed to state budget control select committee chair Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), who told Ratas of "the unfortunate practice, which has come up in relation to government members' participation in special committee meetings".
"Government members do not participate in committee meetings, but instead send officials to discussions. The special committee chair pointed out another issue, which is that the materials required for committee discussions are not forwarded to the committee or even if they are, it is not done in time or they are too general," Ratas said.
Reinsalu told ERR on Thursday that the state budget control committee discussed the issue and approved a decision to turn to Riigikogu board for a solution.
The former finance minister said it especially unfortunate that government members are ignoring the Riigikogu during a crisis. "The Riigikogu is the representation of the Estonian people and it is sad if ministers do not consider it important enough to come in person," Reinsalu said.
He said Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Taavi Aas (Center) recently sent an intermediate level ministry official to a recent discussion on Rail Baltica, during which the official had to report why the railroad development is four years behind schedule. Prime minister Kallas has also not responded to the committee's invitations to join discussions.
Ratas noted in his letter that in addition to its legislative role, one of the parliament's functions is to exercising scrutiny over executive power, which Riigikogu members can do individually and collectively. Committees, however, are required to be informed, as they might not be able to acquire the necessary information themselves.
For this reason, the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act establishes a right for the committees to be informed, which is in accordance with the government's obligation to provide committees with relevant and accurate information, which may be in the form of providing information or attending a committee meeting, the Riigikogu speaker wrote.
"As ministers are politically responsible for what is going on in their field of governance, it is necessary for parliamentary scrutiny to allow committees to require them to attend meetings and to reply," Ratas said.
"This means government members have an obligation to show up at committee sittings. If the committee wants someone else to participate in place of the minister, the committee can invite officials and other people to committee meetings. But only the committee can make that decision," Ratas said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste