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Senior Economist, Public Expenditure Management Division, Fiscal Affairs Department. A previous version of this paper was presented to the 13th International Colloquium of the Review “Public Policies and Management,” Strasburg, France, November 2003. The author is grateful for comments provided by staff of the Budget Management Division, Public Governance Directorate of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), during his study leave from the IMF, as well as Céline Allard and Etibar Jafarov of IMF’s European Department and Livia Tolentino of IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.
In countries without written constitutions, various laws are part of the constitution.
The concept of “public law” is viewed as a recent importation into the United Kingdom (Allison, 1997). The traditional distinction is between common law and statutes adopted by parliament.
In the “Westminister” parliamentary system the prime minister is the head of the largest political party in Parliament and is the leader of a powerful Cabinet, established on the basis of convention. The Cabinet is composed of elected members of Parliament. Cabinets are powerful and they makes the bulk of policy decisions. However, Cabinets crumble (infrequently) when there is a crisis of confidence that brings down the government.
Pollitt and Bouckaert (2000), pp. 52-54, describe this as the Rechsstaat model.
In the United Kingdom, these powers may be based on the royal prerogative—powers of the kings inherited from earlier ages. Courts in the United Kingdom recognize the prerogative as a legitimate source of law.
Governance includes the establishment of a governing board; the appointment and discharge of governing board members and chief executives; and the responsibilities, roles and authority of governing boards and chief executives.
INTOSAI = International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions. The issues recommended for inclusion in Constitutions concern the (1) establishment of the SAI; (2) independence of the SAI—functional and organizational; (3) independence of SAIs’ members, including procedures for removal; (4) relationship between the SAI and Parliament; and (5) audit powers of the SAI. See www.intosai.org.
Constitutions have also been changed to introduce better fiscal management (e.g., United States—1996 line-item control of federal government’s budget by the President (later rescinded); Germany—1969 changes for better overall fiscal management and new intergovernmental coordination mechanism).
Notably a new Organic law on the financial autonomy of local governments, as well as a new decentralization law transferring central government competencies to regions, départements, and municipalities.
Sweden’s Constitution consists of four fundamental laws, of which the most important for public management is the Instrument of Government Act, 1974.
In Finland, the State Audit Office Act, was adopted in 2000. Sweden adopted the Auditing of State Activities Act (2002) and the Swedish National Audit Office Terms of Reference Act (2002).
Although New Zealand adopted a Constitution Act in 1986, it is only one of several laws considered to have constitutional status. Other statutes include the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, the Bill of Rights Act 1990, the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Electoral Act 1993. Canada also does not have a comprehensive single-document “constitution”: it has two Constitution Acts and a number of other acts of constitutional significance.
In December 2004, this act was repealed when its provisions were merged with the Public Finance (State Sector Management) Act, 2004.
The Finance Act 1998 provided the legal underpinning of the Code, which the Government must lay before House of Commons, which adopts it by Decision. Under the Finance Act, the Government may amend the Code.