What Code governs Members of Parliament?
- The Code of Conduct with Regard to Financial Interests directs Members on matters pertaining to ethics. The Code is based on the disclosure of financial interests and provisions pertaining to the disclosure of conflicts of interests.
What is the purpose of the Code of Conduct?
The Code of Conduct is intended to
- help Members conduct themselves appropriately as public representatives
- give specific guidelines based on the tasks of office
- hold Members of Parliament accountable for their exercise of power
- outline acceptable behaviour by Members of Parliament
- establish minimum standards of behaviour
- through disclosure, reduce secrecy and ensure that Membersí personal interests are open to public scrutiny
What must be disclosed?
- There are ten categories of information that must be disclosed.
1. Shares and financial interests
Members are required to disclose the name of the company and number, nature and nominal value of the share.
2. Remunerated employment outside Parliament.
Members are required to disclose the name of the employer and type of business in the public section. The remuneration received must be disclosed confidentially.
3. Directorships and partnerships
If remuneration is a result of this association, the partnership/directorship must be disclosed. Members are required to disclose the name of the company and the type of activity in the public section of the disclosure. The extent of remuneration is confidential.
All sponsorships from non-party sources must be disclosed Source of sponsorship Description of assistance or sponsorship Extent/value UNDP Payment of fees R2500
6. Gifts and hospitality
Members are not required to disclose gifts of a family or traditional nature, provided that these are unrelated to a Memberís role as an MP
Source of benefit Description of benefit MultiChoice Discount on monthly DSTV subscription Value of benefit is disclosed in the confidential section of the Register.
8. Foreign travel paid for by outside sources
Foreign visits paid for by Members, business visits unrelated to a Memberís role as a public representative or formal visits paid for by a Memberís political party or the Government are excluded from registration.
9. Ownership of land and property
OTHER REQUIREMENTS OF CODE
- Members must declare financial interests that they or their spouses may have in a matter before any forum in Parliament.
- A Member must withdraw from the proceedings of any committee if he/she has a conflict of interest in any matter being discussed, unless the committee decides that the matter is trivial.
- If a Member makes representation to a Cabinet Member and the Member has a financial interest in the matter, he/she must disclose the interest to the Cabinet Member.
- A Member may not lobby for remuneration.
- A Member may not engage in remunerated employment outside Parliament if the employment is incompatible with the Memberís role as a public representative.
How are Members required to declare private interests?
- The interest must be declared in the Register of Membersí Interests.
- In the event of a conflict of interest existing for a member at any committee or forum, the Member must disclose the conflict of interest in writing to the chairperson of the committee and send a copy of the disclosure to the Registrar.
- If the conflict is substantial, Members should recuse themselves from the proceedings. However, if the interests are not substantial, the Rules allow the committee to decide whether the Member can continue to participate in the proceedings.
What information is public and what is confidential?
- Information regarding a Memberís immediate family (spouse and minor children) is confidential.
- The remuneration a Member receives for employment, fees or payments received in respect of partnerships, any confidential travel and the value of any pensions are confidential.
- Membersí financial interests are public.
How do you maintain confidentiality?
- Only the Registrarís staff and members of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Membersí Interests are allowed to view the documents. The Registrar keeps a note of all Members who have viewed the confidential records, unless a court orders otherwise.
- Members and staff who work for the Committee are required to take an oath of confidentiality.
- Members who are in breach of confidentiality are liable to a reduction of 30 daysí salary and become ineligible to serve on the Committee.
- Staff who breach confidentiality are subject to disciplinary action including dismissal.
- Confidential records are kept in a safe to avoid unauthorised access.
What should Members consider when they complete the form?
- They should ensure that the information is accurate.
- The Code determines the categories of information to be disclosed in the public section. A Member must disclose the information for public section of Code in the public section. No information that the Code requires to be public may be disclosed in the confidential section, unless the Member has approval from the Committee. A Member must disclose all his/her interests annually.
- Previous disclosure of financial interest does not exempt a Member from disclosure in the current year.
- When in doubt, disclose!!!
BREACHES OF THE CODE
What constitutes a breach of the Code?
- a Member failing to comply with the Code
- a Member, when registering interests, wilfully providing the Registrar with incorrect information
How does the Committee ensure compliance?
- The Committee responds to complaints that it receives.
- The procedure for investigation provides that any person may lodge a complaint against any Member.
- The Committee may also decide to consider any matter that has been raised in the media.
- Anonymous complaints will ordinarily not be considered, but the committee may decide to take action if the complaint is accompanied by prima facie evidence.
What happens after a complaint is lodged?
- The Member must be informed within seven days of the complaint being lodged and the Member is required to respond to the complaint within seven days.
- If the Member responds, the Registrar must consider the Memberís response, verify the response and thereafter make recommendations to the Committee.
- If a Member does not respond, the Registrar may begin a preliminary investigation and make a recommendation to the Committee.
- The Committee must decide on further steps to be taken.
- Should the facts be in dispute, the Committee is compelled to hold a hearing to consider the facts. The Member will be given an opportunity to put forward his/her view.
- A panel appointed by the Committee will consider the facts and make recommendations to the full Committee on whether there was a breach of the Code. In the event of a breach the panel must recommend sanctions.
- The Committee will consider the recommendations of the panel and either adopt or reject the findings.
- At the conclusion of its investigation on the alleged breach of the Code, the Committee must make a finding supported by reasons.
- The finding and the reasons for the finding must be made public.
- If the hearing was in a closed session, a summary of the facts must be disclosed.
What are the penalties for a breach of the Code?
- a reprimand
- a fine not exceeding 30 daysí salary
- a reduction of salary or allowances not exceeding 15 days
- a suspension of privileges or a Memberís right to a seat in Parliamentary debates for a period not exceeding 15 days
What should a Member do if a complaint is lodged against him/her?
- The Member should cooperate with the Committee to resolve the issue.
- The Member must provide the Committee with all the information to ensure a speedy resolution to the complaint.
- The Member may ask for advice and assistance from the Committee to resolve the matter.