Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests recently set a closing date of Friday, 29 September 2017, for all members of Parliament (MPs) to disclose their business and financial interests.
The Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests defines such interests as registrable interests, and MPs are required to make annual disclosures. In terms of Parliament’s code of ethics, a register must be kept of various types of MPs’ interests. Tweet This!
The non-confidential part of the register must be made publicly available, although only after adoption by the committee. The register for 2016 is available.
We have written to the committee to ask whether all MPs made their 2017 disclosures on time and if not, how many did not and which parties they represented. We also wanted to know when the 2017 register would be made available. To date we have not received any answers – however, the committee did meet on 1 November and preparation of the register was on the agenda.
Transparency is the goal
The types of interests to be disclosed include remunerated employment outside Parliament, gifts and hospitality worth more than R1 500 if from a source other than a family member or permanent companion, ownership of land and property in and outside South Africa, and sponsorships, among a long list of others.
These are all dealt with in section 9 of the code, while section 10 deals with breaches of the code and consequent investigation procedures. An MP is found to be in breach of the code if he/she:
- fails to comply with the provision for disclosure of interests;
- provides incorrect or misleading details of such;
- fails to act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them;
- does not discharge their constitutional obligations to Parliament and the public at large, by placing the public interest above their own interests;
- and other requirements.
If this happens, the committee will consider the alleged breach and recommend that the matter be dealt with or without a hearing. Various penalties are prescribed in the code and the committee will determine which one is applicable.
Section 10.2.2.2 stipulates that any person or body may submit a complaint to the Office of the Registrar concerning a breach of the code as contemplated in clause 10.1. This means that anyone may complain to the ethics committee if they feel that MPs are not adhering to the code of conduct. Tweet This!