This article throws light upon the top six major functions of legislature as board of directors. The functions are: 1. Determination of the Activities to be Undertaken 2. Determination of Organisation 3. Determination of Personnel 4. Determination of Rules of Procedure 5. Determination of Grant of Funds 6. Legislative Supervision.
Function # 1. Determination of the Activities to be Undertaken:
As regards the first function there can be little doubt that the determination of what the government shall do is a responsibility that rests upon the legislature. The policy to be adopted by the government both in the internal and external field is set out by the legislature.
But it does not mean that it should lay down all the details of a policy, the specific acts which shall be performed in carrying out the policy. Better it would be if it prescribes the policy in general terms and leaves the details to the executive.
To illustrate, it may lay down that compulsory primary education should be enforced in the country, but it should not go to the length of prescribing the places where schools will be established. It should leave that judgment to the executive. The legislature is a body of politicians representing particular territories or interests. They are interested primarily in their particular territories.
The executive represents and is interested in the entire territory and government of the State. Its judgement is bound to be better in regard to details than that of the legislature because the former being in close touch with administration is in a better position to understand its needs.
Moreover, the legislature will not be unnecessarily burdened with the task of specifying the details. If the legislature goes into details, it denies the initiative to the executive and thereby may impair the efficiency of administration.
Too great legislative itemization renders it impossible for the chief executive to make the most effective utilization of the organization and personnel and to meet exigencies that are only fully developed during the progress of the work.
The legislature should feel contented with the determination of the general programme and should be interested in its efficient execution. Beyond this, it should proceed conservatively, and its further specification should be directory rather than mandatory upon the chief executive.
Function # 2. Determination of Organisation:
“Organization is the medium through which individuals work as a group as effectively as each would work alone. It consists of the relationships of individuals to individuals and of groups to groups, which are so related as to bring about an orderly division of labour.”
Generally speaking organization is divided into departments, bureaus, divisions and sections. In addition to these units there are certain units called field stations.
These field stations are created in the services where the work of the service is done not only at the headquarters of the government but also in field stations all over the country, e.g., post offices, railway stations, law courts, etc.
Now the question here at issue is the point at which it is advisable that the legislature should stop in determining not only the departments that shall be created for the performance of administrative duties, but also the internal organization of these departments.
Concretely, in the words of Willoughby the problem is, “Shall the legislature leave the whole matter of organization to the chief executive as general manager? Shall it determine organization, in so far as the primary units of organization, the departments, independent boards or commissions, etc., are concerned, leaving it to such bodies acting under the general control of the chief executive to provide for the character of internal organization of those services?
Or shall it push its determination still further so as definitely to prescribe by law, not only the departmental and bureau organization, but also the sub-division of these divisions, and the final working units, the sections and field stations?”
In practice, there is no uniformity among the various States on this point. In U.S.A. the number and character of the administrative departments that shall be set up for the handling of administrative affairs have been more or less definitely determined by constitution. In France departments are created by the Executive decree.
In India, the power of establishing new departments rests with the President acting through the Prime Minister. In so far as the units of the lower order, i.e., divisions, sections and field stations are concerned, the discretion in India is left in the hands of the ministers acting through their heads of departments.
But in all these countries the legislature has from time to time created new agencies in the form of departments, corporations, boards or commissions to carry on a particular activity. Thus in India, the Life Insurance Corporation, Railway Board, the State Electricity Board, Public Service Commission have been created by the legislature.
That in doing so it has been guided largely by the advice of its general manager, the chief executive, is quite true, but the act of determination has been the act of the legislature and these agencies have a legislative status in the sense that their existence has been determined by statutory law.
As to what should be the true principle it may be said that it is desirable that the legislature should content itself with making only the most general provision regarding the organization of an agency and leave the details of internal organization to be determined by the chief executive because he is the person who is responsible for running the administration.
The legislature cannot handle this matter in as intelligent a manner as those directly responsible for the conduct of the affairs. Secondly if legislature determines the organization it gives rigidity to it. The frequency with which the organisation of departments is revised shows the need for flexibility.
Thirdly, it imposes upon an already overburdened legislature the responsibilities of which it should be relieved. Therefore, the chief executive should be given the necessary powers to shape the administrative units according to the requirements of administration.
Function # 3. Determination of Personnel:
Personnel is the body of persons who actually run the administration. It may be of two types—directing personnel, that is, those who are responsible for direction of services and are commonly called officers, and employees proper, that is, those occupying subordinate positions and having as their general duties the carrying out of orders given to them.
It is generally accepted with regard to the former class that the legislature should itself determine their “number, character, compensation, powers and duties.”
In respect of this class the only question is how deep into the organization of the several services this determination shall go. Shall it stop at the heads of departments and members of boards and commissions or go up to the heads of the working units, the sections, field stations and the like? In the U.S.A. the Senate ratifies most of the top appointments made by the President.
This is on account of the presidential form of government and checks and balances system prevalent in that country. Now all the arguments that have been given against the legislature seeking to control organization under the preceding subheading also equally apply to the creation by law of officers to have charge of subordinate units of organisation.
As regards the second class of employees, the legislature may determine their conditions of service either by a general statute or by an act of appropriation. Willoughby is of the opinion that it is not wise to control personnel other than directing personnel, by the first method. Any attempt to prescribe limitations upon subordinate personnel in this manner gives rise to a rigidity that is sure in many cases to work injury.
The Act which provides for the setting up of a service, after providing for the directing personnel may provide “for such other officers and employees as may be from time to time provided by law.” This will leave sufficient discretion to the legislature to determine each year the provision that shall be made for the subordinate personnel of a service at the time of granting appropriations for that service.
Function # 4. Determination of Rules of Procedure:
Rules of procedure may be of two types:
(1) Those which affect the interests or rights outside of service, and
(2) Those which have to do with purely administrative operations within the service.
The example of the former are the rules setting forth the procedure to be followed in assessing and collecting income-tax or land revenue, in the grant of copyrights, trademarks, etc.
These are matters affecting personal and property rights of the people in a most direct manner. The example of the latter are the rules for the disbursement of pay to the members of the service. Now as regards the former it is desirable that the legislature should pass a statute to give them legal sanction.
The question as to whether these rules should be embodied in the Acts of the legislature or promulgated by cabinet or the head of the department involves a consideration of the question of the delegation of legislative powers which lies outside the scope of our study.
The advantage of having these rules embodied in the statutes lies in the greater certainty of their legal force. The advantage of having them embodied in the executive orders lies in the fact that they are drafted by the persons directly familiar with the conditions and problems of the department.
As regards the second category of rules of procedure, it is better to leave wide discretion to the services concerned. The legislature should exercise control over them through a proper system of accounts, reports, audit and the like.
Function # 5. Determination of Grant of Funds:
In all the countries the legislature determines the amount of money which is to be made available for expenditure to the executive. All the public services are to be paid from public funds for their work. If no money is made available, the entire administration would come to a standstill. Therefore, it is the duty of the legislature to find out the needs of every department and make provision of money accordingly.
Function # 6. Legislative Supervision:
Since the legislature is the source of all administrative authority and makes money available for carrying out the administration it is desirable that all grants of authority should be accompanied by means for ensuring that such grants are properly exercised.
In other words, it may be said that the legislature should provide the means by which it shall be able to exercise due supervision and control over its agents. To see that these agents perform their duties properly is an imperative duty of the legislature.
Willoughby mentions the following means through which supervision and control may be exercised and accountability enforced:
(i) The requirement that all administrative officers shall keep proper records of their official acts;
(ii) The requirement that these officers shall submit reports at least once a year giving a full account of their act;
(iii) The requirement that accurate accounts shall be kept of all financial transactions and reports of such transactions shall be made in such form that full information regarding their character is furnished;
(iv) Provision for a system of examination and audit of these accounts;
(v) Provision for the consideration by the legislative bodies, acting directly or indirectly, of the administrative and financial reports with a view to determining not merely the legality of the action taken, but also the efficiency and economy with which official duties have been performed;
(vi) The requirement that administrative officers shall furnish information regarding acts done by them when called upon to do so by the legislature;
(vii) Provision for special investigations or inquiries of a comprehensive character of the manner in which affairs have been conducted by a particular service or services.
Thus from the above description it is clear that the legislature instead of directly running the administration or determining in too detailed a manner the activities, agencies, organization, plant and personnel should give its directions in general terms and provide that the officers charged with their execution shall furnish it with detailed data regarding their action.
It is of greatest importance that the system of accounting, reporting and audit that will correctly and fully furnish the legislature with precise information regarding the acts of all administrative officers should be made perfect.
In the words of John Stuart Mill, “Instead of the Junction of governing which it is radically unfit for, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government; to throw the light of publicity on its acts ; to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which anyone considers questionable ; to censure them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfill it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and either expressly or virtually appoint their successors.”