Evaluation of the law in the Chilean Parliament 


Evaluation of the law in the Chilean Parliament 

In response to a series of citizen concerns regarding the proper functioning of laws, in December 2010 the Department of Evaluation of the Law/OECD was created in the Chamber of Deputies of Chile.

Paulina Maturana Arancibia, Department of Law Evaluation, Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Maryan Henriquez Ayala, Coordinator of Gender policies, Department of Evaluation, Chamber of Deputies, Chile.

The Department set as its goals:  

  • to identify all those elements that could affect the effectiveness of a norm,  
  • to know the impacts derived from the application of a law and to  
  • find corrective measures to improve it if necessary.  

Ex post evaluation completes the regulatory cycle. This type of evaluation is the last stage of the cycle, which is performed once the law is published as only then we can know with certainty the effects of its implementation. 

Law Evaluation Methodology 

In its work, the Department follows a clear methodology that consists of three phases:  

PHASE I. On "Technical study of the law" includes:  

  • Legal analysis of the law and its regulations. 
  • Study of the judicial and administrative application and interpretation of the law.
  • Interviews with implementing institutions and experts. 
  • The elaboration of indicators, a step that was added as a result of recommendations to improve our methodology. 

PHASE II. On "Citizen Perception" includes: 

  • Use of analysis and social Research tools to determine citizen perception of legislation  
  • Conducting Regional Citizen Forums 
  • Analysis and debate in social media using traditional and virtual means. 

PHASE III. ‘Evaluation report’ includes: 

  • Elaboration of conclusions and recommendations. 
  • Elaboration of final report 
  • Dissemination 

In this methodology representatives of civil society actively participate. This aims to collect obtain feedback from those who participated in the pre-legislative process (PHASE I), together with new social actors in the public debate in order to express their opinion and raise their concerns (PHASE II) and make suggestions to improve this regulation (PHASE III), which represent the conclusions subsequently integrated in the evaluation report. 

In this regard, cooperation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is of great importance. The OECD provides technical advice and guidance and has validated the evaluation methodology. 

Integration of the citizen's point of view in parliamentary work  

When discussing the contribution made by the Department to the Chamber of Deputies, it is important to note that the methodology: 

  • makes it possible to identify unwanted effects of legislation. 
  • makes it possible to diagnose the practical application of the Law.  
  • provides background information on the functioning of the institutions mandated by the law. 
  • effectively integrates citizens in legislative work. 
  • Legitimizes the regulations in force.  
  • Allows the adaptation of rules to the real needs of the population. 
  • Promotes the effective cooperation between the Chamber of Deputies and the citizens, improving the approval rates of the legislative work. 
  • Promotes decentralization, by incorporating the regions, considering territorial particularities in the updating of the law.  

The above enable:  

  1. Updated information for the legislative debate. 

  1. Integrates citizens in the legislative process either through opinions in focus groups or through citizen consultations. 

  1. Decentralizes citizen participation. This is of utmost relevance since Chile is a centralized country, where all debate and action take place in the capital, Santiago, and this type of work satisfies the demand for participation.  

Challenges highlighted by the methodology 

The main challenges highlighted by the use of the methodology are the following: 

First of all, the update of norms, given the evolution of behaviors and living, while norms remain stopped in time, which makes it necessary to go to the spirit of the law to understand the context in which it was discussed. This update is necessary in the evaluation of the law but times run faster than the legislative processes.  

Second, there is little intersectoral coordination which hinders the application of norms that require joint action of mandated actors. The lack of conversation between services slows down the process of implementation of a norm.  

Third, there is a generalized lack of knowledge of the law, which generates mistrust and erroneous interpretations by citizens either in relation to the tools or the sanctions it incorporates. This situation is observed every time a citizen forum is held and citizens are asked to give their opinion on the law under evaluation. Although it is assumed that once the Law is published it is known by all, in practice this is unfortunately not the case. 

Fourth, the implementing regulations either do not always adhere to its objective or to the spirit of the legislator, or many times they are not published. This is of utmost importance given that this is where technical specifications are detailed  on how to implement a law and put it into practice. If a regulation is not issued, the interpretation of a norm remains open. It is fundamental that it exists and that the law indicates the Ministry in charge of its elaboration. 

Fifth, the rules are not accompanied by the necessary budget for their implementation, which complicates their practical application, given that often services are created or new areas are generated within a service without a dedicated budget. This means that it is not posible to complete the tasks mandated or that the quality is low. This has been mentioned recurrently and is a warning that our Unit makes to parliamentarians.