A strong, dynamic, and effective parliament requires the support of an administration possessing similar qualities. Apart from running the parliament on a daily basis, the administration supplies MPs with research and analysis, provides advice on legislative drafting, manages and archives information, ensures that parliamentary rules are respected, and more. To effectively engage these tasks, parliaments often run their own libraries and research units, as well as websites, publications and even their own television and radio stations. Modern parliamentary administrations often adopt the use of “e-Parliament” tools to help facilitate this array of important and complex tasks. Parliaments seek to enhance and strengthen the core functions and operations of the parliament through the application of information and communications technologies (ICTs). Parliaments' use of ICT can also have an important impact on parliamentary transparency and parliaments’ representational function.
Yet, however advanced their use of technology, a key characteristic for the success of parliamentary administrations is impartiality. MPs must be able to trust the information provided by the parliamentary administration as informed decision-making relies on the availability of credible and unbiased information. Due to the temptation of influencing the parliamentary administration towards one political persuasion or another, the adoption of strict procedures for the hiring and management of the administration is important for ensuring the integrity of the system.
The increasing application of ICTs to parliamentary work is a positive development that parliamentary administrations must be willing and able to adopt. E-Parliament systems provide a number of tools that assist MPs in conducting their core functions, including: digital resources to assist committees, information systems for tracking parliamentary work, increased communications and networking between MPs and citizens via parliamentary websites, and databases and intranet capacities for monitoring executive activities. They can also assist with the ever-increasing workload that many parliaments face. Furthermore the development of internet and broadband technologies allows parliaments to connect to a global information network to assist in legislative research and the sharing of best practices.
Although one may think of the parliamentary administration as affecting only the internal functioning of a parliament, the role of the administration in information management is key to parliamentary transparency. The potential ease of widespread access to information can be a boon to MPs who see public participation as a vital aspect of their work. On the other hand, such access may also be a cause of concern to those who seek to protect their interests by staunching the flow of information. Thus, while the financial costs of ICTs must be considered, so too should the political ramafications.
No matter how electronically savvy a parliament may be, a well developed parliamentary administrative staff is always necessary to run the show. An effective parliamentary administration requires strong management and research skills, as well as training capacities to continuously update staff skills. High quality support of this kind ensures that parliamentarians have the information to analyse and make legislative decisions and adequately consider the long-term social and economic consequences of proposed legislation. Many parliaments develop research centres – or fund independent centres – and forge linkages with civil society organisations in order to support their researching needs. The administration must also earn the trust and respect of MPs, who are unlikely to base their decisions on the work of a partisan administrative apparatus. Due to these needs, transparent and independent recruiting, evaluation and management procedures are vital to the daily functioning of the parliamentary administration.
For more information regarding parliamentary organisation, please see:
Finances and Budget of Parliament