[WATCH] Standards czar ropes in OECD for transparency and integrity reforms

The two-year project will see the Code of Ethics for MPs and people in public office redrafted with stricter rules on lobbying

A new code of ethics will be drafted to guide members of parliament
A new code of ethics will be drafted to guide members of parliament

A two-year project in partnership with the European Commission and OECD will see Malta’s Standards Commissioner develop a stronger transparency framework for public office.

Announced today, the project will see the OECD help the standards office increase its effectiveness and improve integrity standards and processes for collecting and verifying asset and conflict of interest declarations. 

Photo: Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life
Photo: Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life

A new code of ethics will be drafted to guide members of parliament, ministers, and parliamentary secretaries in their official work, while a new policy framework will regulate responsible lobbying.

The project itself will be supported by a Steering Committee, comprising of representatives from the Office, a representative from each parliamentary group, a representative from the Ministry for Justice and Governance, representatives from civil society, and from the OECD and European Commission’s Directorate General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM).

Speaking at the project’s launch, Standards Commissioner George Hyzler said he is happy to see that government is on board with the initiative.

“The only way good people can be encouraged to enter politics is by having peace of mind over what is to be expected from them,” he said.

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Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis was also present at the launch, elaborating on the need to improve the code of ethics and reform the financing of political parties.

The OECD’s key focus areas will include an organisational review of the Office, assessing not only its strengths and weaknesses but also analysing the legal, procedural and institutional set-up.

Building on this review, the OECD will draft a report with recommendations for amending the Standards in Public Life Act to address several legal ambiguities.

A third output from the OECD’s side will include a report with recommendations on the process of collection and verification of asset and conflict of interest declarations. The recommendations will be made for developing an electronic submission system and a risk-based methodology to analyse asset declarations.

Code of Ethics to be redrafted

Part of the project will include a handbook to the Code of Ethics for MPs, and another handbook to the Code of Ethics for ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

A draft code of ethics had already been proposed by Hyzler in July 2020, but up until June this year was still awaiting the verdict of Parliament’s Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life.

Asked by MaltaToday on the draft, Hyzler said that consultation on the code of ethics simply hasn’t happened.

“I would like to wake up tomorrow and see that Parliament approved what I was suggesting,” he remarked, indicating that the Office needs to work harder with interested parties that want to change the code. 

He added that while the project will take place over 24 months, the Code of Ethics could be drafted much sooner, as the various outcomes of the project will be published in stages.

On responsible lobbying, he added that he feels the responsibility should be divided between ministers, or persons identified as having to register lobbying activity, and the lobbyists themselves.

“I don’t feel that we should only burden the ministers,” he said.

READ ALSO: MPs keep draft rules for lobbying and gifts in limbo