On March 26, after nearly three years of negotiations, the Eventual Commission for the Enhancement of Transparency in the exercise of Public Functions approved a proposal to regulate the "lobbying"Which came under widespread criticism as it did not oblige lobbyists to disclose their clients. That is, a lobbyist could meet with deputies or rulers and not record what interests he was representing at those hearings. Two weeks later, however, there was a retreat, with the PS to file an amendment aimed at mandatory disclosure of customers.
For João Paulo Batalha, president of Transparency and Integrity – Civic Association (TIAC), "the latest known version of the proposed regulation of 'lobbying'In the Commission for Transparency may, with some generosity, be seen as a step forward from previous versions. Rather, it is rather a retreat backwards. Unfortunately, the final outcome of the Commission for Transparency's three years of work amounts to an attempt to avoid the greater evil. Of all that is in preparation, there are few advances, several setbacks and nothing truly reforming. "
It was, according to João Paulo Batalha, what happened in the 'lobbying': "After a terrifying version, which allowed a total blur of opacity in the performance of interest representatives, who would not even have to report who they represent, a proposal is merely of concern. But it remains a drawback from the current situation. And being the current situation of regulatory emptiness, it is a feat to have a regulation that is worse than no regulation at all. "
"The way the legislation was discussed in the Transparency Committee reveals that there was no clear idea of the problems that were to be resolved. It has moved ahead basically to regulate a profession – the professional representation of interests – without realizing that the fundamental problem is not the lack of regulation of a sector that, in fact, is very incipient in the Portuguese context, "he laments. "The underlying problem is that we have a very opaque decision-making, regulatory and legislative process, bad accountability and even worse in the accountability of decision-makers. This opacity allows the infiltration of interest groups that often do not need the assistance of representation professionals. The regulation of the 'lobbying'Should, above all, serve to increase the transparency of decision-making processes and to widen opportunities for participation. By making processes more transparent by bringing them closer to citizens and interest groups, openness and fairness of access would be promoted. We would be guaranteeing more informed public decisions and a democracy in which more voices would be heard. This is not what has been sought. "
The TIAC president says that "there is a regulation of professional interest representatives setting up a lobbyist register," retracting the idea that lobbyists would not even list their main clients or say who they represent when they meet with decision-makers the public. "This retreat, which resulted from public pressure, was obviously positive. Publication of hearings given to lobbyists is another positive step. But these advances will be under permanent threat because of another rule of the same law which gives Members the power, without special justification, to invoke the confidentiality of the legislative process and hide behind it in order not to reveal any of the meetings or contributions of the groups of interests. It is a clear setback for the transparency obligations that already exist today and shows that the Commission's instinct is to make as little progress as possible. And be able to revoke them at any time. "
"It is surprising the hasty and hesitant aspect that this legislation takes, after so much time that they had to study, to hear, to learn, to formulate the right questions and to perceive the problems that there were to solve. The Commission worked with bad method and worse will. At the 'lobbying', As in other questions, advances will be measured in centimeters. For a job that consumed the entire legislature, it is not enough. There will not be one before and one after the Commission for Transparency regarding the integrity of democratic institutions and the recovery of citizens' trust, "he concludes.
Article published in issue no. 1985 of April 18 of Jornal Econômico