Sun, Feb 19, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers should declare conflicts of interest: group

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Legislators should be obliged to disclose potential conflicts of interest and forbidden from simultaneously holding positions with private firms, a legislative watchdog said.

“Some legislators become wealthier during their term, and while some might just be good at managing their finances, there is a concern that some people have not avoided conflicts of interest and might have made wrongful earnings,” Citizen’s Congress Watch executive director Chang Hung-lin (張宏林) said on Thursday.

The Legislators’ Conduct Act (立委行為法) forbids lawmakers from holding positions in state owned enterprises, but they are still permitted to hold positions in private companies, while financial disclosure requirements focus on assets and liabilities rather than earnings.

The number of legislators who voluntarily reported outside positions and board memberships fell to 61 this year, compared with 68 prior to last year’s legislative session, Chang said.

“The vast majority of those who report do so because they are in harmony with conflict of interest standards, but we are suspicious of those who are not willing to provide any information,” New School for Democracy board chairman Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元) said.

“Avoiding conflicts of interests is important because legislators review the national budget and often have relationships with for-profit enterprises. If we want a clean democracy, these relationships must be transparent to allow for supervision and prevent legislators from using their influence in committees illegitimately,” Tseng said.

Chang welcomed plans to introduce live coverage of legislative proceedings this session, adding that more is need to guarantee true transparency.

“We want substantive, not just surface, transparency, particularly about anything going on under the table,” he said. “Many of the party caucuses proposed congressional reform legislation at the beginning of the current legislative term, but after a year, none of them are listing it as priority.”

He also called for legislators-at-large to be given priority in receiving committee assignments compatible with their expertise during the upcoming legislative session, adding that parties should also demonstrate that candidates for committee convenorships have sufficient understanding of legislative rules.

Many experienced legislators are likely to be unwilling to pursue the posts as they prepare to run in elections for local government heads next year, he said.

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