TO MRS. TSVETA KARAYANCHEVA
CHAIRWOMAN OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
MR. DANAIL KIRILOV
CHAIRMAN OF THE LEGAL ISSUES COMMITTEE
MR. BORIS YACHEV
CHAIRMAN OF THE ANTI-CORRUPTION,
CONFLICT OF INTERESTS AND PARLIAMENTARY ETHICS COMMITTEE
S T A N D
FROM THE “ANTI-CORRUPTION FUND“ FOUNDATION
Represented by Miroslava Petrova – director
Address: Sofia 1000, 71, “Knyaz Boris” Str., office 2
Legal grounds: Art. 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, Art. 18 of the Law on Legal Acts
Subject: Legal Settlement of the Part-time Associates’ Status in the National Assembly and Conflict of Interest Prevention
DEAR MRS. KARAYANCHEVA,
The “Anti-Corruption Fund“ (ACF) foundation works in the interest of the civil society and in cooperation with justice with the purpose of impeding and investigating the corruption on all levels in the country and the high-level corruption. In our capacity of a non-governmental organization, we carry out inspection and analysis of accessible sources and documents in order to assist the disclosure of corruptive activities and misuse of power. ACF supports the efforts towards counteracting corruption, including through enhancing the competent organs’ capacity and efficiency.
In relation to our access to public information (Resolution no. ZDOI 18-12/24 April 2018, “ZDOI” being a Bulgarian abbreviation standing for Law on the Access to Public Information) regarding the part-time associates’ status in the National Assembly, and on the basis of the monitoring conducted with respect to the Public Register of the Part-time Associates, we have ascertained the following circumstances:
As of late April 2018, the part-time associates’ total number is 479, of which:
- working for members of the parliament (MPs) – 371,
- under parliamentary groups – 34,
- under parliamentary committees – 76.
At the same time, approximately one third of the associates of the MPs have no higher education, the ratio with the associates of the parliamentary groups is almost the same, and more than half of the associates of the parliamentary committees lack higher education, or have an unspecified level of education.
According to the data acquired pursuant to the Law on the Access to Public Information, the National Assembly has no contractual relations with the part-time associates, does not pay their remunerations, does not appoint them, and does not determine their size. In addition, the part-time associates are claimed to have access neither to official information, nor to classified one.
In this regard, we declare our stand that, with regard to the part-time associates, in view of the activity they perform, general education-related requirements need to be set, the same being valid about the observance of professional and ethic standards, with the purpose of preventing any conflict of interest. These requirements and standards have to be obligatory, they need to be affirmed through an act issued either by the National Assembly, or by the chairman of the National Assembly.
- We suggest that an educational level requirement is set, in compliance with the activity performed by the part-time associates. Secondary education would be acceptable for those engaged in technical activity and logistics. A higher education requirement should be stipulated for the associates performing expert We need to consider that the part-time associates have access to sessions of parliamentary committees, they draft specialized stands, and participate in working groups dealing with bills (drafts of laws). Those activities require highly specialized knowledge in particular fields of legal regulation, in the sphere of public policies, as well as profound understanding of the functional competence of the institutions. Such complex knowledge is mostly acquired at higher education levels.
- Considering the part-time associates’ access to the work of the parliamentary committees, including participation in sessions, access to documents, including bills, MPs’ proposals between first and second readings, drafts of reports, etc., special rules regarding the access to the relevant information should be provided. As to the access to internal and official information, the respective liability should be defined in case a person misuses any such information. A possible solution is the filing of a declaration, in which a person explicitly states that he/she will keep the information that is non-public in its essence and that has become known to the part-time associate in relation to/on the occasion of the activities he/she perfoms. That would increase the security of the information and would create an environment, in which the discussions within the framework of the working process (g. working groups summoned ad hoc in relation to certain bills, between the two readings) would be protected.
- The provision of special rules is justifiable in view of preventing any conflict of interest on the occasion of the legislative activity of the National Assembly. By participating in the work of the parliamentary committees and the parliamentary groups, the part-time associates not only get a wide access to information, but also have a real opportunity to influence the drafting of the laws (bills) and certain legislative proposals, and to suggest editing of decrees. This is mostly happening when the associates participate in summoned working groups dealing with bills. Their influence may be substantial, especially in cases when a MP counts on the external expertise offered by the relevant associate, who may be professionally engaged in the same sphere the bill is prepared in. The need of creating special rules for preventing any conflict of interest stems from the lack of a legal option for applying the rules and the procedures pursuant to the Law on Counteracting Corruption and Confiscating Illegally Obtained Property with respect to the part-time associates. At the same time, however, there is a concrete public interest that has to be defended. In conditions of a missing legal regulation of the lobbying and the lobbying activities, there should be rules for avoiding any illegal influence within the legislative process. Unlike the citizens and the legal entities that may file publishable proposals and stands within the framework of the legislative process through the general channels, the part-time associates may directly take part in the work on the bills, outside of the mechanisms for publicity and accountability. This activity should be regulated by creating special rules for declaring any potential conflict of interest in relation to the drafting of the laws (bills). These rules may be passed through an act issued by the National Assembly (for instance, a special section may be opened in the Regulations for the Organization and the Activity of the National Assembly, dedicated to the part-time associates and the requirements regarding their activity). The keeping of the public interest within the framework of the legislative process serves as grounds for such a regulatory intervention, despite the lack of formal legal relationship between the part-time associates and the National Assembly. The leaders of the parliamentary groups should also take part in the drafting of these rules – they, too, can propose general standards with regard to the hiring of part-time
- The internal legal regulation within the National Assembly is justified also in view of the fact that the parties represented in the parliament, which engage part-time associates, command public finances received as part of the subsidy from the state budget. The same applies to the associates working for MPs, as far as each of the MPs receives extra financial means (in addition to his/her salary) for sustaining
In conclusion, we express our conviction that the introduction of general standards and rules regarding the part-time associates’ status at the National Assembly will affect the public image of the institution positively, it will contribute to the greater transparency and accountability, and would serve to prevent the various forms of lobbying and lapsing into conflict of interest.
The “Anti-Corruption Fund” foundation remains at hand with its expertise, and is ready to cooperate in case it is decided that a working group should be summoned with the prupose of drafting the general rules regarding the part-time associates’ status and activity.