Montero frees senior officials from publishing their agenda of meetings with the ‘lobbies’
The Ministry of Finance modified at the last moment what was dubbed the ‘Preliminary Draft Law on Transparency and Integrity in the Activities of Interest Groups’ to eliminate the obligation to make public the official agenda of the senior government officials who hold meetings with lobbyists. This was revealed to La Información by sources from the ‘lobby’ sector who question that with this “last minute” change and “through the back door” the Government releases public employees from all obligations and places the maximum responsibility in terms of of transparency about the ‘lobbies’.
In previous versions of the text, it was contemplated that all senior positions up to the rank of general directors – in addition to the president and the group of members of the Government, the secretaries of State and undersecretaries, the general secretaries or the delegates of the Government in the autonomous communities, among others- they would be obliged to publish their official agenda on the Transparency Portal. In this sense, the Draft Law understood as a public agenda all the activity of the personnel involved in decision-making and in the management of public resources, including, of course, meetings with interest groups that try to influence the laws.
But that section disappears from the text after the meeting of secretaries of State and undersecretaries prior to the Council of Ministers that gave the green light to the Draft Law two weeks ago, according to sources familiar with the Civil Service script twist. The Ministry conserves, yes, the article related to the “normative footprint”which establishes that the activities carried out by interest groups with the purpose of influencing the preparation of any regulatory project must be reflected by the competent department in the Regulatory Impact Analysis Report, where the identity of the official who has maintained contacts with interest groups, as well as that of lobbyists and their claims in the meetings held and on what date they occurred.
The change is substantial, according to sources from some of the main ‘lobbies’ on the national scene who usually defend their interests before the executive branch. The fact that in the Draft Law, as it appears written right now in the public hearing procedurethe obligation to publish the public agenda of senior officials is eliminated -right now the Government only disseminates the official agendas of the president and ministers- releases public employees, it places all obligation of transparency on the ‘lobby’ and “contradicts all European standards”insist from the affected interest groups.
It must be remembered that this same Draft Law already passed the public consultation process between the months of April and May 2021 and then the Executive already collected some thirty contributions -the vast majority, from associations and private entities- regarding the agendas of public officials, some of which qualified that its publication should limited to senior positions and only in some cases to those of other managers, “when the importance of the issues so advises”. There were also very detailed contributions regarding the publicity of the meetings and the information that must be accessible (the identification of attendees, the documentation that is distributed, etc.), according to the documentation that the Ministry compiled at the time.
From the interest groups they defend that the publication of the agendas in the Transparency Portal should be limited, effectively, to those of the public positions with more responsibility within the Government, because the opposite -extending this obligation to all senior positions- would mean excessive bureaucratic burden. Hence, they criticize that the department headed by María Jesús Montero has eliminated this section of the text. “They force us to register in an official registry, to abide by a code of conduct, and they subject us to a sanctioning regime while they eliminate all obligations of transparency for the Government,” denounces a lobbyist with extensive experience in dealing with the Public Administration.
The sector is already preparing a battery of allegations to the Draft Law which will be in public hearing until December 5 and then it will return to the Council of Ministers, before starting the parliamentary process, according to what they told this medium. And it is that the publication of the agendas is not the only point of friction with the Ministry, according to the sources consulted in the world of the ‘lobby’, which reveal that Montero’s team introduced another last-minute change to the exclude professional associations of the regulated interest groups, along with political parties, trade union organizations and employer organizations, which will not be affected by the new regulation either. “They are leaving out some of the main lobbyists in Spain,” question these sources.
The ‘lobbies’ have put all the machinery into operation to, on this occasion, try to influence a rule that fully affects them and whose processing will be faster than initially expected. As La Información has learned, The Minister of Finance has ordered that it be ready before Christmas, which leaves a scant month of margin. “We have started to work on a set of very detailed allegations so that the standard complies with the essential obligations established by European standards and OECD directives,” say sources involved in the talks that predict an “arduous fight” for ” correct” the text.
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