Ministers, parliamentary secretaries and other public officials should be barred from acting as lobbyists for a period of time after they cease to hold office, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is proposing.

Additionally, ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and the heads and deputy heads of their secretariats should register all communication - including meetings - in a Transparency Register that would be accessible to the public, a consultation paper by George Hyzler is proposing.

In January the Malta Chamber of Commerce also called for a government-wide lobbying register, after Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia said he planned to implement one for his department. 

In the consultation paper setting out proposals to regulate lobbying, Dr Hyzler reviews the approaches taken by different countries and sets out proposals on how this should be done in Malta.

The aim is to increase transparency and improve standards of governance, his office said in a statement on Friday.

"The regulation of lobbying should also serve to minimise trading in influence, which is a crime," it added.

The term 'lobbying' refers to efforts by private individuals and entities to influence government decision-making in their favour. Lobbying is a concern in many countries because, if it is not regulated, it can result in private interests gaining excessive influence over government decision-making, to the detriment of the general public.

The commissioner is proposing that lobbying should be regulated through a new law: Regulation of Lobbying Act.

This Act would define lobbying as any “relevant communication” on “relevant matters” to “designated public officials”. The consultation paper proposes detailed definitions for all three terms.

The paper proposes that all individuals and bodies that carry out lobbying should be governed by a code of conduct.

In addition, some of these people and bodies should be required to register in a Register of Lobbyists that would be maintained by the Commissioner for Standards. These lobbyists should submit regular returns on their activities.

According to the paper, there should also be a minister responsible for the administration of the Act, but the Act should be enforced by the Standards Commissioner. The commissioner should have the power to impose administrative penalties, subject to review by the courts.

Anyone can submit their views on the paper to the commissioner during the consultation period, which will remain open until April 30.

The commissioner will revise his proposals on the basis of public feedback. He will present the revised proposals as formal recommendations to the government in terms of the Standards in Public Life Act.


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