, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 45-76
Date: 11 Nov 2012

Political selection of public servants and parliamentary oversight

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Abstract

In this paper, we propose a framework to integrate the identity of legislators in a politico-economic analysis of parliamentary oversight. Legislators decide about the effort they invest in oversight activities depending on their individual control costs and the level of electoral competition. We focus on public servants elected to parliament who face a conflict of interests but also have lower control costs due to their experience and information advantage. If held accountable, oversight becomes a relatively attractive activity for them to win votes. For German Laender, we find that the fraction of public servants in parliament is positively related to the number of submitted parliamentary interpellations. This result holds when instrumenting the fraction of public servants in parliament with its institutional determinants. Moreover, a mixed-member electoral system as well as a tighter race between the two biggest parties is related to more, a larger number of parties in parliament to less minor interpellations.

Revised version for the journal Economics of Governance. We are grateful to two anonymous referees, Tim Besley, Beat Blankart, Bruno S. Frey, Vincenzo Galasso, Martin Hellwig, Thorsten Henne, Simon Luechinger, Manuela Merki, Tommaso Nannicini, Michael Zehnder, seminar participants at Bocconi University, Max-Planck-Institute Bonn, CIRCaP University of Siena, and participants at the CLEF Annual Meeting at the Yale Law School, the Meeting of the Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics in Fribourg, and the Meeting of the European Public Choice Society in Rennes for helpful comments. Special thanks go to Laura Sochaczewski and Michaela Slotwinski for excellent research assistance. We also thank the WWZ Forum for financial support, the IGIER at Bocconi for its hospitality, and the parliamentary information services and parliamentary libraries of the German Laender for generously providing information about the parliamentary process.