Ministers should publish their meetings with private interests, Standards Commissioner suggests

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler has published a consultative document containing proposals to regulate lobbying

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler
Standards Commissioner George Hyzler

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler has released a consultative document containing several proposals to regulate lobbying, one of which suggests that ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and state officials start publishing all their communications and meetings with private interests on a transparency register accessible to the public.

Lobbying refers to individuals and entities attempting to influence government decisions for their benefit. 

“Ministers, parliamentary secretaries should register all their relevant communication, including meetings, in a transparency register that should be accessible to the public,” Hyzler said, adding that this builds on what is already being practiced by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia who recently committed himself to publishing all his meetings with private interests.

The document, which Hyzler released on Friday, examines mechanisms that were adopted in various countries to regulate lobbying and presents what could be a set of working rules for the local scenario.

“Lobbying raises many questions in many countries because if not regulated, it can lead to private interests assuming vast influence in the making of government decisions and the general public stands to suffer,” Hyzler wrote in a statement on Friday.

New law should regulate lobbying

The Standards Commissioner is proposing a new law to regulate lobbying, entitled ‘Lobbying Regulation Act.’

“This act,” Hyzler wrote, “should define lobbying as any relevant communication on relevant matters that is made to identified public officials.”

The consultative document proposes that every person or entity that is involved in lobbying should regularise itself in accordance with a code of ethics. These persons or entities should be obliged to register in a lobbyist database that is kept by the Standards Commissioner. They should also be made to divulge constant updates about their regular activities.

State officials should not lobby after they leave office

The Commissioner is also proposing that ministers and parliamentary secretaries and other state officials would not be allowed to act as lobbyists for a period of time after they leave their office.

This comes after former prime minister Joseph Muscat recently lobbied his successor to meet with Steward Health Care and to open renegotiations on the hospitals concession deal. 

The document suggests that state officials be barred from acting as lobbyists for a period of three years after ceasing to hold office.

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