Empiric analysis of Committees of Inquiry adopted by the austrian parliament
Checking the government is an essential component of the democratic principle and a central duty of most parliamentary bodies in the world. This is true for the austrian parliament as well. Legally committees of inquiry are very important in the austrian system of checking the government on special fields of interest. Parliamentarians do not depend on governmental information, but they can also acquire their own information with certain procedures. So each parliamentarian can practice fact finding on his or her own.
According to austrian law a committee of inquiry is a committee that has been adopted by the Nationalrat by majority decision. The aim of such a committee is the investigation of a special governmental activity in a special policy. Committees of inquiry are ad hoc committees. That means that they are set up only for one special purpose and that they will be terminated when the aim has been reached. It is not allowed that committees of inquiry are established without an aim and for a longer period of time than necessary. They are not designed for a constant checking the government by the parliament. Committees have to prove that the government has worked according to parliamentarian preparations and guidelines or not. The committee has to prove that the government or members of the government alone or together misused their power. After the investigation process the members of the committee of inquiry have to report to the Nationalrat. Only the Nationalrat has the power to decide what will happen to the government or a single minister. One of the instruments the parliament then can use is to prepare for a motion of no-confidence against the whole government or against one or more minister.
In general, parliamentarian committees of inquiry have a positive effect on the power of the parliament according to the checking the government. In the past they had contributed to a self purification of the democratic life in Austria. The public image of the austrian parliament has been sanitized by having committees of inquiry. There have been nearly 20 committees of inquiry in the austrian second republic. But only 16 have been adopted by the Nationalrat unanimously.
 Peter Gehrlich (1973), Parlamentarische Kontrolle im Politischen System. Die Verwaltungsfunktionen des Nationalrates in Recht und Wirklichkeit, Wien, New York, p.8-10.
 Peter Gehrlich (1973), Parlamentarische Kontrolle im Politischen System. Die Verwaltungsfunktionen des Nationalrates in Recht und Wirklichkeit, Wien, New York, p.143,269.
 The Nationalrat is the first chamber of the austrian parliament and the main legislative body.
 Helmut Widder (1995), Parlamentarische Untersuchungsausschüsse aus der Sicht des Bundes, in: Heinz Schäffer, Wolfgang Dax, Georg Lienbacher (Hg.), Untersuchungsausschüsse, Ein parlamentarisches Kontrollinstrument im Spannungsfeld von politischer Praxis und rechtlicher Neugestaltung, Wien, 27-69, p.48.
 The Nationalrat will decide whether the case will be submitted to court or not.
 Felix Ermacora (1990), Der Lacuna-Ausschuß im Lichte staatswissenschaftlicher Erfahrungen in: Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik (ÖJP) 1989, 225-241, p.226.
 Doris Schmiedauer (1996,. „Nix sehn, nix hörn, nix redn, so lebt man am besten“, Der Norikum Skandal, in: Michael Gehler, Hubert Sickinger (Hrsg.), Politische Affairen und Skandale in Österreich, Von Mayerling bis Waldheim, München, Wien, 568-591, p.577.
 Winfried Steffani (1971), Über die parlamentarischen Untersuchungsausschüsse, in: Kurt Kluxen (Hg.), Parlamentarismus, Berlin, 249-271, p.259.