OECD proposes rules precluding ex politicians from lobbying

All MPs should register meetings with lobbyists, OECD suggests in proposal for new law regulating lobbying

File photo
File photo

Former politicians should be precluded from lobbying on behalf of the private sector immediately after the end of their political career, according to a proposal by the OECD.

The detailed proposal by the Paris-based organisation calls for a dedicated law regulating lobbying, which will be enforced by the Standards Commissioner.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is calling for a “revolving doors” mechanism to preclude former politicians and officials taking the role of lobbyists.

The OECD is calling on the Office of the Prime Minister to adopt “cooling off periods for elected officials” and “appointed officials in at-risk positions”.

This is one of a number of proposals included in an OECD report, which describes lobbying in Malta as “unregulated and opaque”.

It warns that “non-transparent, lobbying poses a risk to inclusiveness in decision making and trust in government, possibly resulting in the dissatisfaction of the public as a whole” and “lowers the country's trustworthiness at the international level”. 

Moreover, the OECD is proposing that the law regulating lobbying should be applicable to all MPs and not just ministers, a mechanism through which laws and regulations enacted in breach of regulations can be rectified and that religious organisations and political parties should not be exempted from the law as originally proposed by the Standards Commissioner.

The idea of a transparency register recording meetings and electronic communication between ministers and lobbyists was first proposed by standards czar George Hyzler in July 2020 but no steps have yet been taken to enact the new rules.  The introduction of transparency register also formed part of a package of anti-corruption laws proposed by the PN before the general election, which was shot down by government.

Upon his appointment in January 2020 former Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia had also announced his intention to register meetings with lobbyists but later backtracked saying that he was waiting for the outcome of a proposal being drafted by the Standards Commissioner for a government-wide lobby register.

Two years later the OECD is calling for a dedicated law to be enacted by parliament and that the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should be entrusted with responsibilities for overseeing and enforcing the new law.

And crucially the Regulation of Lobbying Act should include a provision allowing for decision-making or policy outcomes to be rectified if the lobbying regulation was violated.

And to ensure that the Transparency Register enables the necessary public scrutiny, the commissioner could require that the Transparency Register be regularly updated, either in real-time or on a weekly basis.

The OECD is also calling for effective sanctions in case of breaches of the law including cases were meetings with lobbyists are not logged or where the information disclosed to the public is incorrect or misleading.

The OECD’s report acknowledges that some actors will avoid identifying and reporting their actions as “lobbying”.

“Thus, it is crucial that the lobbying regulation contains a separate mechanism for reporting all influence efforts, regardless of the lobbyist/non-lobbyist status of the influencer.”

No decision-making process should be closed before the public have had a reasonable amount of time to review the relevant information in the Transparency Register.  This means that all information should be available to the public “before a ministerial bill is submitted for governmental approval or before an Environmental Impact Statement is released for public comment within an EIA procedure.”

The OECD also said it should be the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life who has the sole power to determine which information is too sensitive to be divulged to the public which avoids any discretion by politicians and lobbyists.

To facilitate public scrutiny of proposed regulations or laws, government should be bound to publish a legislative footprint that indicates the lobbyists consulted in the development of all legislative initiatives.

While entrusting the commissioner with more responsibilities in the oversight and enforcement of the law, the OECD is also calling for equipping the office which currently has only nine people, with sufficient financial and human resources.

The original proposal by the Standards Commissioner had excluded communications by or on behalf of religious entities and political parties from transparency regulations.

With regards to religious organisation the report states that a balance could be found by exempting religious denominations while including the activities of other religious organisations or groups representing religious interests in the scope of the law.

Read the full report here.

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