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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title III - Making Parliamentary Information Transparent

Sec. 24. Disclosing Assets and Ensuring the Integrity of Members

Parliament shall make available sufficient information to allow citizens to make judgments regarding the integrity and probity of individual members of parliament, including information on members’ asset disclosures, non-parliamentary income, including interest, dividends and in-kind benefits.

Polls of citizens often demonstrate that citizens lack complete trust in their parliaments. According to the ECPRD, “The question of averting corruption and maintaining high standards of behaviour in public life has become a topical issue, as evidenced by the public outrage each time there have been revelations concerning serious misconduct by Members, the privileges enjoyed by special advisors, the keeping of slush funds, the sponsorship of government activities or the revolving-door careers of senior civil servants, to name but a few.”[1] By requiring members to disclose their assets and financial interests in detail, parliaments demonstrate a clear commitment to protecting the integrity of the parliamentary institution.

This principle is consistent with international benchmarks for democratic parliaments adopted by the CPA, APF, COPA, and SADC-PF.  The CPA states that “Legislatures shall require legislators to fully and publicly disclose their financial assets and business interests.”[2] COPA’s benchmarks further mandate that members “must disclose their assets before, during and at the end of their term.”[3] Guidelines released by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, in support of OGP, also state that MPs should be required to disclose systematic information on regular basis, including information on assets, liabilities, sources of income, gifts, and conflicts of interest.[4]

The OECD reports that disclosure of private assets is required in 85% of member country parliaments[5] and is also required in countries as diverse as Algeria, Australia, Ghana, Japan, Tanzania, and Uruguay.[6] Many countries exhibit good practices intended toward a high level of transparency, closing potential loopholes and avoiding opportunities for evasion. In South Africa, members of parliament are provided with a list of “registerable interests” that they must make public.[7] In India, “After a candidate wins elections to either House of Parliament it becomes mandatory for him/her to declare their assets (movable and immovable property for self, spouse and dependent children) within 90 days of taking oath of office as an MP. Liabilities to public financial institutions and the Central and any State Government are also required to be disclosed.”[8] In Canada, Parliament has adopted a Conflict of Interest Code that not only requires regular disclosure of interests by members of parliament, but also requires former members to disclose interests, as well as their spouses and dependent children – closing a loophole that has been used in some countries as a method for avoiding disclosure.[9] According to the parliament’s Standing Orders, New Zealand’s MPs must disclose “returns of pecuniary interests” by publishing them in the “Record of Pecuniary Interest” within 90 days of their general election. Financial interests from both members and their spouses and children must also be disclosed.[10] The Public Service Ethics Act adopted by the National Assembly in South Korea requires that members of the Assembly must disclose ownership of both real and intangible property as well as shares in nonpublic business entities. These disclosures are published in a public bulletin.[11] Latvia adopted a comprehensive law to on financial disclosure of members of the Saeima, requiring broad asset disclosure of members and their relatives.[12]

[1] Williams, Veronica. Parliamentary Codes of Conduct in Europe: An Overview. European Center for Parliamentary Research and Documentation, 2001.

[2] CPA, Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures, §10.1.3.

[3] COPA, The Contributions of Parliaments to Democracy: Benchmarks for the Parliaments of the Americas, §

[4] TAI’s guidelines, entitled Asset Disclosure (2011), are available here: Accessed 6/18/2012.

[5] OECD, Government at a Glance 2011, p. 207.

[6] Parliamentary Centre, African Parliamentary Index, June 2011, pp. 61, 141; also NDI 10.1.2

[7] IPU, Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to Good Practice, p. 101.

[8] Centre for Civil Society, Parliament and Citizens: Bridging the Gap Through Greater Transparency, July 2010, p. 18.

[9] Office of the Ethics Counsellor, Canada, Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders, June 1994. Accessed 6/18/2012.

[10] New Zealand House of Representatives, Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, pp. 160-3. Accessed 6/18/2012.

[11] Public Service Ethics Act, Act No. 4566, 11 Jun 1993 (South Korea). Accessed 6/18/2012.

[12] On Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials, 10 May 2002. Accessed 6/18/2012.