Reservations about the process of recording contact minutes were expressed during the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Institutions, on Wednesday, where the bill on Transparency in Public Decision-Making Procedures, which concerns lobbying, was discussed again.
The Ministry of Justice undertook to clarify aspects of the bill, which concern the recording of the contacts of the officials, before it returns before the Parliament.
Specifically, the bill stipulates that contacts of state officials, MPs or other local government officials, be recorded in a special register, which will be checked by the competent Authority, for the purpose of transparency.
In the context of the discussion that took place within the Committee, in the presence of the Minister of Justice and Public Order, Stefis Drakou, reservations were expressed regarding the effectiveness of the bill and the possibility of creating obstacles in the work of officials, during its practical implementation.
Ms. Drakou stressed that the Ministry does not intend to cause unnecessary bureaucracy, nor does it intend to limit meetings of officials and promote the interests of anyone. He stated that the aim is to prevent corruption, which is why transparency concerns cases where there is involvement in policy decisions.
He concluded that the intention of the Ministry is to “help the Parliament to reach the right decisions, through the synthesis of views.” He asked the representatives of the parties to submit opinions, in order to discuss with the Legal Service, in order to compose opinions in the right direction.
The Chairman of the Committee and Member of Parliament for DISY, Dimitris Dimitriou, said that there are concerns, as it is something new and that the goal is to institutionalize the measure “as correctly and as practically as possible”.
“We are making a Principle to serve transparency,” he said, but added that “if even between us we still wonder what contacts should be made practical, then there will be a mess.”
Addressing the Minister, he requested the preparation of a manual with examples.
On behalf of AKEL, MP Giorgos Loukaidis said that the form of the bill “will create incredible bureaucracy, which will make the legislation largely inapplicable and at the same time, due to its non-implementation, officials will be left irreparably exposed.” ». He explained that such restrictions should not be imposed in order to discourage NGOs, Disability Organizations, Non-Profit Associations from promoting collective interests through meetings with officials.
“There must be a register of contacts and transparency, when through the contacts of an official it is possible to have a personal or business profit, for individual natural or legal persons,” said Mr. Loukaidis, expressing the assessment that this is not clearly described in the bill.
Following the position of Loukaidis, Andreas Passiourtidis of AKEL, that the issue can be put on another basis, if it is clarified by the executive that the involvement in public decision-making process concerns cases that end in personal or business gain, for individual natural or legal entities.
DIKO MP Pavlos Mylonas stated that “the key word is transparency” throughout the debate. He stressed that the judge of the actions and positions of officials is the people, so transparency should not be a concern.
DIKO MP, Zacharias Koulias, said that such a bill should be simple, austere and functional and argued that the problem is that in “glaring” criminal offenses the legal code does not apply. Addressing the Minister, the Member of Parliament stated that the bill needs further elaboration by the Commissioner for Legislation.
MP Alexandra Attalidou, on behalf of the Ecologists' Movement, expressed the view that officials should not feel threatened by the declaration of their contacts. In statements at the end of the meeting, she said that the bill should safeguard the political process, but also strengthen accountability and transparency in decision-making. “In order to restore citizens' trust, we must be open to transparency ourselves,” he concluded.
Independent MP Andreas Themistokleous said the bill imposes “brutal restrictions on the freedoms and duties of MPs” and “illegally appoints elected representatives and officials appointed by the elected government”.