Members of the parliament - representatives of the people or the capital?


Editorial note: the text below was created in response to a journalist's question about a specific member of the National Assembly who holds a business share in a chimney company and at the same time participates in the adoption of sectoral legislation that will affect the operations of chimney companies. An article was created, which was then published in the newspaper Finance on 20.09. 2017 Unfortunately, EICE's professional views did not find room in it in the end, but we believe that we will one day have the opportunity to professionally interpret the importance of managing compliance risks, both in the private and public sectors.

Deputies are public officials who are also limited in their work by the rules on limiting conflicts of interest and incompatibility of functions. If a deputy were actively involved in the implementation, management or supervision of any gainful activity, he would already be in direct violation of the provisions of the Integrity and Prevention of Corruption Act and the Deputies Act.

Holding an ownership stake in a company is not in itself illegal or unethical, but in the case of state officials, this is one of the circumstances that increases the risk of conflicts of interest and corruption in their operations. Namely, the deputies make decisions that have a great impact on all areas of life of citizens and the operation of companies and other organizations, on space, the environment, etc. Because of their political affiliation, they also have a rainbow of levers of informal action. In their decisions and actions, they influence various interests and vice versa - these interests affect them. If they are personally or economically connected with any of the interests that may be affected or benefited by their decision, then this makes it difficult for them to be impartial from a purely human point of view. Article 37 of the ZIntPK stipulates in general that an official must pay attention to any actual or potential conflict of interest and must do everything possible to avoid it and that he must not use his functions or services to perform himself or anyone else. what illicit private interest.

The profession knows several possibilities for limiting such influences on impartial decision-making, and the extreme measure to completely eliminate a certain circumstance is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited for deputies to hold other functions in state or local self-government bodies or to perform gainful activity and the like. Many times, however, it would not be possible to ban a circumstance or situation in the case of Members because they would not have any decision-makers. As an example, we can give the amendments to the Personal Income Tax Act, which change personal income tax classes, or the tax liability of personal income tax classes - to some in favor, some to the detriment. If we wanted to completely eliminate the circumstance of conflict of interest, we would not have any MP to decide, as they are all citizens who would be affected by the decision in one way or another. There are also less extreme cases.

It is probable that in the adoption of any regulation or executive decision, there is a circumstance in the case of one or more Members or another official which might cast doubt on their objectivity. Everyone has several roles, is a member of a society, his child is included in the school system, his wife is a co-owner of a company, a cousin runs a public institution or he or his relative owns a waste processing company, construction… In the end it turns out the reason that in the same circumstances one acts completely differently from the other, in personal culture, which is also influenced by the wider social culture, including ethical culture. We see our development in Slovenia in reaching the level of maturity, when we will have all the usual expected control mechanisms in the performance of public functions, as well as in the performance of economic and other activities on the spot, as well as incentives for self-regulation and effective and professional external supervision. This will then be better followed by a personal ethical culture, so that the competent officials make decisions for the benefit of all citizens and the wider environment, and superior to any personal interests, and the citizens will trust them in this.

In specific cases, we often do not know whether e.g. some MP actually abused his function and affiliation with the ruling party in order to influence the government to e.g. adopted a regulation that would bring additional benefits to his company or his other spheres of interest. It is important, however, that this may not be questioned if journalists and, through them, the public can be convinced without a doubt that these changes are very well justified, if they were openly discussed with all stakeholders, if the changes would be based on already established good practice and the objectives pursued would be logical as well as likely to be demonstrated. It would also be very helpful to raise confidence that Members and other officials would have a code of conduct and that their oath would include responsible, professional and ethical conduct. It would also help if political parties select candidates for MPs and other officials according to a predetermined procedure and criteria of personal suitability and professional and experiential suitability, as is already the case for members of the management and supervisory boards of banks and insurance companies in the EU. It could be agreed that the deputy e.g. can only be someone who proves at least with minimal past results or. achievements in community action that have influenced progress within it, albeit only at the micro or local level. In the past, elementary school students were given recognition for working in the classroom community - why not continue and upgrade this attempt to raise awareness of the importance of working for the common good (public service and / or community organizing)? If we look at the Law on State Officials, for example, it already mentions personal income in the second article and then the entire second chapter of this law is dedicated to personal income. ends with the fifth substantive chapter on the protection of the rights of officials. There is not a single article in this law on the duties of our state officials, on their responsibility to the public service, on citizens, on acting in the public interest and on avoiding the primacy of private interests. It is true that the letter on paper does not change anything, but it implements the initial tone from the top and builds an important basis for transfer to life.

Otherwise, I believe that the ethics of Slovenes in general is no better or worse than the ethics of other European nations. The difference is in what kind of environment each country has; do we have systemic incentives for citizens, as well as companies and, in the first place, our representatives in the most important institutions - state officials - to behave responsibly, professionally, ethically. I believe that Slovenia already has sufficient and quality foundations to become an excellent country in this sense as well. However, much remains to be done to make the state structure more synchronously organized, efficient, disciplined and professional in all areas and levels; that there should be more incentives for responsible and ethical conduct of individuals, companies and other organizations in the decisions and practices of state bodies and more reasonable and balanced discouragements for irresponsible and unethical conduct.

Andrijana Bergant