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Regulamentação do lobby no Chile

By Sandra Segall Published On: Wed, Jan 22nd, 2014 Bill passed after a decade of debate in a move hailed ‘historic’ by transparency groups but slammed by former president as a victory for lobbyists. Congress’s pioneer anti-lobby bill ‘fundamentally flawed’ Screenshot from Ciudadano Inteligente’s campaign ‘The Glass: half empty/half full, always transparent’ which pressured Congress to pass the anti-lobby bill. Congress approved the so-called “anti-lobby bill” Tuesday, with transparency groups applauding the legislation as the first of its kind in Latin America but some parliamentarians describing it as deeply imperfect. Posed to Congress in its current form in 2008, the bill, which seeks to increase transparency in the public sector, passed the Chamber of Deputies with 94 votes in favor and one abstention Wednesday. The Senate passed the bill a day earlier with 24 in favor, six against and three abstentions. The bill makes it mandatory for public officials to officially register meetings with lobbyists — a move welcomed by transparency organizations. “We value the approval of the bill,” Manuel Arís, Ciudadano Inteligente spokesperson, told The Santiago Times. “It is a victory for the organizations, academics and politicians from different sectors who have pressed for this bill to be passed for years.” Ciudadano Inteligente’s Executive President Felipe Heusser hailed the occasion as a “a great day for civil society” on Twitter, recognizing the commitment of Christian Democrat (DC) deputies Jorge Burgos and Patricio Vallespín, as well as senators Hernán Larraín, of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), and Isabel Allende, of the Socialist Party (PS). Two senators, however, heavily criticized the bill for letting lobbyists off the hook. Previous drafts of the bill called for the creation of a register to which lobbyists would be required to pre-register on a mandatory basis. The law that past on Tuesday, however, requires that lobbyists only need to be registered if a meeting with a public official is scheduled — and the responsibility of registering any meetings lies solely with public officials. “Corporate legal advisers don’t need to register,” former president and current DC Sen. Eduardo Frei wrote in a press release after the upper house passed the bill Tuesday. “The law is fundamentally flawed, with this law, the lobbyists have won, because they don’t need to register and the burden of proof will remain with Congress.” PS Sen. Camilo Escalona was one of six who voted against the proposal. “It’s like a Mercedes Benz, but without an engine,” Escalona wrote in a press release Tuesday. “Meaning that it doesn’t have a real register of private sector lobbyists.” The law states that any lobbyist — both for- and non-profit — will be registered from their first meeting scheduled with public officials. Persons registered in the database will have to comply with obligations such as outlining who they represent and if they receive any form of remuneration for the negotiations conducted. However, it is the responsibility of the public official to disclose the information on the meeting, its participants and issues discussed. Heusser told The Santiago Times on Friday that the bill needs to be improved upon, but is a step in the right direction. “If [a parliamentarian and a lobbyist] meet in a coffee shop, it could result in a scandal” he said. “If they meet on a golf club, it will increase the risks that public official is running.” The outgoing Piñera administration, however, hailed the passing of the legislation as historic. “[This is] a historic law to improve the honesty and transparency in Chile,” Secretary-General Cristián Larroulet wrote in a press release Tuesday. “We are closing in on a desired and positive change for the country.” Anti-lobby legislation was first proposed in 2003 under former President Ricardo Lagos, though the first draft of the current anti-lobby law entered Congress during the Bachelet administration in 2008. In May 2012, under President Sebastián Piñera, the bill both broadened the definition of lobbying and switched the law’s focus from lobbyists themselves to government authorities and public officials. “Most controversy stemmed from how the public register of lobbyists should be managed,” Heusser said. Controversy was also spurred by the regulations stated in Article 13, which requires the registration of profit and non-profit lobbyists. Following pressure from some 48 civil society groups, the law was processed by a mixed commission in Congress and amended in terms of registration procedures. One of the core amendments made to the law was that the register of lobbyists will not be monitored by the government, but by the Transparency Council, an autonomous public institution. Another amendment was the regulation of deadlines for registration. Formerly the bill allowed lobbyists to perform their business for up to six months before registering. “It went from six months to immediate effect,” Heusser said. “If a meeting is scheduled it will be registered without delay and they will stay in the register as they meet with public authorities.” Heusser identified the passage of the anti-lobby bill as unprecedented, however asserted that additional legislation and work is necessary to further transparency in the public sector. “This would be the first lobby law in Latin America,” Heusser asserted. “The biggest challenge is going to be to implement it.” By Sandra Segall (sandra@santiagotimes.cl) Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times Congress’s anti-lobby bill ‘fundamentally flawed’

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