New law “will hide MPs’ wealth”

Front page news today centres on a new law that “will make it difficult to verify the wealth and income of anyone exercising political office or holding a high public role”.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã explains the law “still has to pass a final reading, in parliament”.

But if it gets through, it will mean a new era of opacity, says João Paulo Batalha, the president of Transparency and Integrity – the Portuguese branch of Transparency International.

Batalha claims the new rules set out to “reduce the capacity to scrutinise bad conduct”.

Yet every party bar the centre-right PSD approved them at the committee stage (committee for the reinforcement of transparency).

The vote took place at the end of March and should come up for final reading very soon.

Says CM, right now “it is possible to consult income declarations in paper form in the Constitutional Court, just as the respondents submitted them – almost always hand-written.

“Under the new regime declarations, filled out digitally, can be viewed online but only after the information is ‘screened’ to show only the total amount of each of the declarant’s income categories, and any share in joint income with third parties.

“Discriminated information on securities portfolios, bank accounts, financial applications and bank accounts of more than 50 minimum salaries will also be hidden from the public, with only values given for each heading”.

When it comes to properties, these will be identified by their location, matrix number and equity values.

Addresses will no longer be given, which according to Batalha is an “unacceptable reduction in information revealed to the public”.

Batalha claims to be on board for excluding details that compromise “questions of privacy and security”, but he says the lumping together of information in this new format is a “reduction in transparency” and a way of “whitewashing” dodgy conduct.

The committee’s voting follows another recent development at committee stage, which approved the legalising of trips gifted by private entities to politicians and high-ranking public figures.

If ‘freebie trips’ are sanctioned (they were approved by both the PS and PSD), it will ‘clean the slate’ of all those councillors, MPs and parliamentary bigwigs who enjoyed jetting to and from the Euro 2016 games, courtesy of GALP which at the time owed the State over 200 million euros (click here).

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