Diverse forms of scrutiny
Scrutiny of legislation and the budget
The scrutiny of the government is one of the Bundestag’s core responsibilities. It is closely bound up with the task of adopting legislation, for every piece of legislation put forward by the government is deliberated on in Parliament and must find the necessary majority there.
These links are shown particularly clearly when the federal budget is being considered. Without the express consent of Parliament, it is impossible for the Budget Act, which regulates all the Federation’s revenues and expenditure, to enter into force.
However, the Budget Act is not just another law. Without money, no government can achieve its programmatic goals. In consequence, the annual debate between the government and the opposition about the federal budget usually lasts for several days.
Parliament also scrutinises the government’s adherence to the budget. The Federal Minister of Finance must account to the Bundestag and the government must be discharged by the plenary.
Scrutiny by individual Members and the plenary
The Bundestag has a series of instruments and measures available to it with which to scrutinise the work of the government. This means, above all, that parliamentarians are able to inform themselves about the work and intentions of the government and put critical questions.
It is not always necessary for such measures to be supported by the majority in Parliament. For instance, individual Members may address oral and written questions to the government. And a parliamentary group or five percent of the Members of the German Bundestag may call on the government to clarify important political issues in what is known as a major interpellation.
The instrument of scrutiny with the most momentous consequences is the constructive vote of no confidence. The Bundestag may vote by a majority of its Members to elect a new Federal Chancellor and have him or her appointed by the Federal President.
Scrutiny by various bodies
The Bundestag establishes various bodies to scrutinise the government. Some of these bodies are permanently constituted, such as the permanent committees and the Parliamentary Oversight Panel.
By contrast, other bodies are only set up in response to topical events. In some cases, this requires the support of at least 25 percent of the Members of the German Bundestag. These bodies include committees of inquiry established to investigate political and bureaucratic misconduct.