For sale : access to the decision-taking process

 

 

The Lowenbrau saga has raised another issue as to the extent that revolving door recruitment should be regulated. By revolving door recruitment I am referring to the movement from government service to private sector lobbying and vice-versa of holders of political office as well as of senior civil servants. As a result of such recruitment, an investment is being made in the access to the decision-taking process which is purchased or offered for sale.

Last Sunday, The Malta Independent on Sunday understandably raised the issue with reference to former Minister John Dalli in the article Revolving doors: John Dalli denies conflict of interest in Lowenbrau deal  (TMIS 22 January). However, the issue is much wider. It is a matter which is of concern in respect of the manner of operation of lobbying which in this country is largely unregulated. It has already happened not just in Mr Dalli’s recruitment with the Marsovin Group but also when the Corinthia Group recruited both Mr Dalli as well as current EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

It concerns both holders of political office as well as senior civil servants, including senior officers of authorities exercising executive authority.

There is much to learn from foreign jurisdictions as to the manner in which such recruitment should be regulated. A recent example which made the international headlines was the recruitment by Goldman Sachs of Josè Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission.  An ethics panel had described Mr Barroso’s behaviour as morally reprehensible even though it concluded that he was not in breach of the EU Integrity code.

Corporate Europe Observatory had then commented that the Barroso recruitment had “catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda, causing widespread jaw-dropping and reactions of disbelief, making it a symbol of excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.”  Corporate Europe Observatory had also referred to the recruitment of other former European Commissioners by various corporations and emphasised that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that as a result of this behaviour European politicians are seen to be acting for private interests over the public interest.

This is the real significance of revolving door recruitment:  it needs to be ascertained that the potential abuse by holders of political office of milking public office for private gain is regulated. It is not just another layer of regulation or unnecessary bureaucracy.

The issue is however more complex than the recruitment of holders of political office at the end of their political appointment. It is also of relevance even when such holders of political office are appointed to such office from the private sector as can be ascertained through the current hearings by the US Senate of the Trump administration nominees. It is also applicable to senior civil servants from the wider public sector.

Parliament is currently debating a Standards in Public Life Bill, which at this point in time is pending examination at Committee stage. Unfortunately, revolving door recruitment as well as lobbying have not been considered by the legislator!   Revolving door recruitment is an exercise in selling and purchasing access to the decision-taking process. It is high time that it is placed under a continuous spotlight.

published in The Malta Independent: Wednesday 25 January 2017

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Il-Parlament u l-MEPA

24 ta’ Frar 2010

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Matul il-ġranet li ġejjin fil-Parlament se tibda d-diskus­sjoni dwar ir-riforma tal-MEPA.

Meta teżamina l-proposti li l-Gvern qiegħed jippreżenta biex jemenda l-liġi biex jagħti bidu għar-riforma tal-MEPA ssib li l-iktar affarijiet essenzjali huma neqsin. Dan ta’ bilfors iwassal għal mistoqsija, allura din x’riforma se tkun?

Jien dejjem sostnejt li għalkemm dejjem se jkun hemm x’tirranġa fil-MEPA, il-problema fundamentali mhumiex il-‘policies’ iżda min jinterpretahom. Jiġifieri kemm ikunu kapaċi jaqdu dmirhom il-membri li jinħatru fuq il-Bord u l-Kummissjonijiet tal-MEPA.

Għaġina

Mhux waħdi li smajt l-istejjer dwar x’ġara fil-passat, kemm riċenti kif ukoll imbiegħed. Ħafna minnhom huma pubbliċi. Uħud minnhom huma pruvabbli, oħrajn diffiċli ħafna li ssib il-provi dwarhom għax il-kobba mħabbla sew.

Il-punt dejjem hu jekk min jinħatar huwiex ta’ fibra. Sfortunatament dan mhux dejjem kien il-każ u għalhekk il-MEPA hi fl-istat li hi llum. Għax filwaqt li min inħatar mhux dejjem għaraf jirreżisti għall-pressjoni, sfortunatament kien hemm min inħatar apposta biex iservi ta’ ‘remote control’ għal ħaddieħor. F’dan il-każ il-kwalifika prinċipali tiegħu kienet li kien kapaċi jkun għaġina f’idejn ħadd­ieħor.

Il-funzjoni

X’inhi l-funzjoni tal-MEPA? Fil-fehma tiegħi l-MEPA għandha tkun il-garanti tal-komunità kollha li l-oqsma li għalihom hi responsabbli jitmexxew sew. Sfortunatament bosta drabi l-MEPA dehret kompliċi biex ikun hemm min tgħaddi tiegħu minkejja kollox. Il-messaġġ li ħareġ kien wieħed ċar ħafna, li minkejja l-formalitajiet u r-regoli kollha, id-deċiżjonijiet il-kbar u l-iktar iebsin, diversi drabi kellhom tiċpisa partiġ­ġjana. Jiġifieri iktar minn deċiżjonijiet li dwarhom kien hemm ġustifikazzjoni teknika ambjentali u ta’ ppjanar fl-użu tal-art, fejn kien hemm ġbid lejn il-politika tal-Gvern tal-ġurnata.

Hu dan li r-riforma teħtieġ li tindirizza u dan fil-fatt qiegħed jiġi injorat apposta, bi ħsieb.

Rieda tajba

Il-ħatra tal-membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA hi ta’ importanza fundamentali fl-eżerċizzju kollu li qiegħed isir.

Għax anke jekk nikkonċedi rieda tajba fil-proċess kollu tar-riforma, jekk din ir-rieda tajba tissarrafx jew le, se jiddependi minn bnedmin tad-demm u l-laħam li ma jkunux lesti li jitgħawġu. Kif se jsir dan?

Il-Parlament

Il-Bord tal-MEPA ma jistax jaħtar lilu nnifsu! Alternattiva Demokratika sa minn qabel l-elezzjoni tal-2008, kienet ipproponiet li l-Parlament għandu jkollu rwol ikbar fil-mod kif jintgħażlu n-nies li jmexxu l-MEPA. Il-Parlament għandu jiżviluppa rwol bħal dak tas-Senat Amerikan li jagħrbel u japprova ħatriet ta’ importanza nazzjonali, anke jekk in-nomini jibqgħu jsiru mill-Gvern tal-ġurnata. Naħsbu li l-Gvern m’għandux jaħtar bħala membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA persuni li dwarhom, il-Kumitat Magħżul tal-Parlament dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar ikollu diffikultà.

Id-diffikultà tista’ tkun kemm dwar kompetenza kif ukoll dwar sebgħa dritt.

Għandu jkun possibli li l-Parlament permezz tal-Kumitat Magħżul dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar jgħarbel fil-pubbliku lil dawk li jkunu se jinħatru. Hekk pereżempju jintgħażlu l-Ambax­xaturi kollha li taħtar l-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika, jinnominahom kollha l-President u jikkonfermahom is-Senat permezz ta’ wieħed mill-Kumitati tiegħu. Fl-Istati Uniti dan isir għall-ambaxxaturi kollha, anke għall-membri tal-Kabinett u għal uħud mill-organizzazzjonijiet tal-Istat Federali.

Jekk għandna nikkopjaw għandna nibdew nikkopjaw sistemi li ġew imfasslin apposta biex l-eżerċizzju tal-poter tal-ħatriet ikun imrażżan. Jekk min jaħtar jagħraf li ħatra importanti trid qabel ma sseħħ tgħaddi mill-passatur tal-opinjoni pubblika, jaħsibha darbtejn dwar min iressaq ’il quddiem. B’hekk forsi jkollna nies fit-tmexxija li jkunu aċċettabbli għal firxa iktar wiesa’ mill-popolazzjoni.

Dan hu rwol importanti li fil-fehma tal-Alternattiva Demokratika għandu jkollu l-Parlament ta’ Malta. Hu aktar importanti milli jibqa’ jaħtar żewġ membri minn tiegħu (kif jagħmel sal-lum) bħala membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA.

Naħseb li l-Membru Parlamentari m’għandux jinvolvi ruħu f’deċiżjoni dwar liema permess għandu joħroġ u liema għandu jinżamm. Iktar importanti li l-Membru Parlamentari jara li dawk li jinħatru jkunu kapaċi jimxu sew. Sfortunatament dan s’issa la sar u lanqas m’hemm il-ħsieb li jsir.

Iżda jekk dan isir, ir-riforma tkun tista’ tagħti l-frott. Jekk le, naħseb li se nibqgħu fejn aħna.