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Parliament tackles Portugal’s approach to ‘revolving doors’

Prohibition for ex-ministers returning to office from big business extended

On one of the final days before Portugal’s parliament is dissolved, MPs have approved measures to combat the practice known as “revolving doors”, involving ex-holders of political office moving between public life and big business.

The committee on transparency and the status of members of parliament voted yesterday to increase to five years the period during which a former holder of an executive political office is prevented from returning to government if they work for a private company in the area they oversaw.

This was originally a PCP communist bill, with amendments proposed by the outgoing absolute majority Socialist Party.

The upshot is that MPs decided to increase the disqualification from the current three years to five “for those who fail to comply with the rule stipulating that holders of executive positions cannot, for three years after the end of their mandate, exercise functions in private companies in the sector they oversee”, writes Lusa.

The law also establishes that this impediment covers companies that have been privatised, benefited from financial incentives and/ or tax benefits of a contractual nature, or those in which a former minister or secretary of state intervened directly.

This amendment saw votes in favour from the PS, Liberal Initiative (IL) and Left Bloc (BE); votes against by right-wing CHEGA, and abstentions from the main opposition PSD, and PCP.

The amendments approved also stipulate that former members of government may not exercise functions in private companies under these conditions “through an organisation in which they hold a stake.”

This amendment was approved with PS voting in favour, CHEGA and IL against and the PSD, BE and PCP abstaining.

The committee also approved the inclusion of a clause providing that organisations that hire former political office holders in breach of the law “will be prevented from benefiting from financial incentives and/ or incentive systems and tax benefits of a contractual nature for a period of three to five years.”

This point was voted in favour by the PS, against by CHEGA and abstained on by the other parties present at the meeting.

Other amendments proposed by the PCP in its bill were rejected with PS and IL voting against, PSD abstaining and CHEGA, PCP and BE voting in favour.

The Communists proposed increasing prohibitions to five years and that companies that hired former political office holders in violation of the law would be obliged to return any support or funds they had benefited from by direct or indirect decision of said office holder, as well as being prevented from “entering into contracts with the State or any public entities, benefiting from any incentives or exemptions involving public resources, as well as accessing community funds, for a period of five years from the commission of the offence”.

At the meeting, the committee approved further amendments to the same law, proposed by the PSD, to restore the “system of guarantees regarding the resumption of professional duties by those called upon to exercise governmental functions and the counting of time spent in political office for the purposes of retirement”.

Members approved adding an article to the legislation on labour guarantees and social benefits of members of the government, which stipulates that “they may not be prejudiced in their placement, their social benefits or their permanent employment by virtue of the performance of government functions.”

These initiatives are expected to be approved in a final vote today.

The issue of revolving doors has been raised relatively recently, with regard to PS Socialists, but it is not a practice limited to one party, as the voting yesterday indicates.

Source:  LUSA