From tightening up asset disclosures to ending unregulated lobbying, the Malta Chamber seeks to raise the bar of politics. Jacob Borg looks at some of its proposals

Asset declarations

The Malta Chamber is proposing a revamp of the system to allow for more meaningful scrutiny of an MPs’ assets and earnings.

It is advocating for a redesign of the present asset form, to allow for the “structured, consistent and coherent submission of asset information”.

A member of parliament should attach, with the asset declaration form, the previous year’s income tax form submitted to the commissioner of revenue.

At the moment, journalists have to put in a separate request to parliament in order to view an MP’s tax filings.

The business lobby wants the asset declarations to be easily accessible to the public, via the parliament and standard commissioner’s websites.

A separate gift registry should also be set up. Contrary to the present system, where MPs have to submit their declaration by the end of April, the chamber proposes that the declarations be filed within a month of the new calendar year.

MPs who fail to present their declarations should be “named and shamed” by the standards commissioner.

The declarations should be analysed by the commissioner, who should then publish a report with his findings and any recommended follow-up action.

The standards commissioner should be given more powers to investigate MPs, and time-barring of investigations should be removed.

Second jobs and lobbying

MPs should be investigated by the standards commissioner when they fail to declare real or perceived conflicts of interest, Malta Chamber says.

Guidelines should be issued precluding backbench MPs from taking up second jobs with government bodies, or carrying out consultancy work for the government, either directly or via a company in which the MPs may have an interest.

Each MP should register the details of any firm or person that meets them for lobbying purposes. The register should be online, and updated within 24 hours of any meetings held.

The register should contain the name of the lobby group and the details of the lobbyist who requested the meeting and the people present at the meeting.

Minutes of the meeting should also be included in the register within five working days of any such meeting.

Ethics training, counselling

Anyone deciding to run for public office should be trained in ethics and ethical behaviour, the chamber says.

Parliament should introduce structured ethical training mandatory for all MPs on election to the House, and such training should be subject to a mandatory annual ethical refresher course.

In a bid to improve the quality of election candidates, the chamber proposes that political parties receive state financing so that candidates wishing to become MPs are provided with training in ethics and refresher courses.

Political parties should also receive state financing to introduce a robust due diligence framework so that persons who present themselves as candidates for election are thoroughly vetted.

The chamber also agrees with a Greco recommendation that parliament should provide dedicated confidential counselling for MPs, so they can receive advice on ethical questions, conflicts of interest about their legislative duties, as well as financial declaration obligations.

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