25 February 2011

The Public Governance Committee of the OECD last week published Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying. These provide decision makers with directions and guidance to foster transparency and integrity in lobbying. The Committee recommends that member states establish rules that take the Principles into ccount and that they disseminate the Principles to legislators, the private sector and to lobbying constitutencies. The proposal is that the OECD will report progress in giving effect to the Principles in three years and periodically thereafter.

In New Zealand lobbying is not recognised as a challenge to the integrity of government or to the effectiveness of the democratic process. Ministers are accessible by all interest groups, effective processes of parliamentary scrutiny are in place and official information is generally available. Reliance on these safeguards may be naive in light of experience in almost every other comparable jurisdiction. A survey in 2010 by OECD disclosed that most member states had concerns about the threat to public trust posed by improper access to decision-makers.  A growing number of jurisdictions have rigorous disclosure requirements and constraints on revolving doors that facilitate the move of public sector leaders into big business. Revolving doors can be seen as reward for the favourable use of influence.

The OECD requirement to report on measures taken to regulate lobbying may influence the New Zealand perspective on the value of disclosing who may be influencing decision makers.

The OECD sees transparent arrangements as a solution.

In South Carolina the newly elected State treasurer now publishes his electronic diary on the web so that all constituents can see who he meets and the nature of those meetings.