Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Belated Law

Ub Post
May 17, 2011

A fundamental condition for the normal and efficient function of a democratic society is the high-quality control over the government and the community. Countries with well-established democracies have certain legislations and standards on good governance, which have become the basic guidelines for all people in public institutions. Out of four of the basic principles of good governance; transparency, openness, honesty and impartiality, the principle of impartiality has been disregarded and openly ignored by the authorities.

Firstly, MPs who own private universities or have seats in the top management of private universities, lately lobbied a recent decision to enable the allocation of MNT500,000 to go from the government budget to public and private universities and colleges as a tuition fee from individual students for each academic year.

Last week, the same lawmakers submitted a bill to Parliament to grant a MNT70,000 stipend to each student every month from the government budget.

They claimed that the stipend for students is the right investment to education, which would help solve many problems simultaneously. This law too has been lobbied.

Their dual roles as members of Parliament and of university institutions have caused a crucial conflict of interests.

Secondly, a draft resolution to re-set the boundary of specially protected areas, masterminded and submitted by another group of legislators, attempted to release lands on which MPs private tour camps are situated, when they are outside the boundaries of natural parks.

In this way, authorities in Bogd Khan National Park are renewing national park boundaries in their favor and interest.

Thirdly, the Government has decided to issue MNT110 billion worth of sovereign bonds to a new cooperative called “Mongol Cashmere” – which is a merging of private companies owned mostly by MPs and Cabinet members.

This means the government will finance the bond, as well as its interest. But the repayment deadline and methods have been silently forgotten.

In Mongolia, the private interests of government officials are ever present in large road and construction projects financed by the government budget.

Soon, they will pass a law allowing budget-financed projects to occur without tender bids or selections.

Finally, the authorities purposefully ensure a tender will fail to gain any share of the profits by intentionally muddying or failing to manage the tender bids.

Parliament and cabinet members with conflicts of interest should hesitate to participate in decision-making process in their respective issues. Unfortunately, they are trying shamelessly and resolutely to influence the decision making in their own interest.

The activities of seventeen members who have their own universities show the true magnitude of the vast conflict of interest in Mongolia.

If these 17 members were prohibited from making decisions related to higher education (for one can only hope the Parliament’s Office will soon check and announce their names), it might intimidate others in a Parliament whose daily attendance rate is already quite low.

There are also several members who should stand back from decision making associated to construction. Therefore a list of members with conflicting interests must be made by each industry involved.

In cases of city and provinces’ administrations and local parliaments, the conflict of interest happens in much more open ways. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say that there is no former members of the city parliament who misused their competency and authority to get a piece of land in the most favorable areas of the city or to take the slice of privatization.

The city administration office should make a statement on this matter. A mechanism to deal with such problems is the adoption and enforcement of a law on conflict of interest.

In developed countries with strong democracy, such a law is passed to define who is a person with conflict of interest and not to allow such persons to partake or influence the decision making.

In case they commit the conflict of interest, such law clearly states what kind of punishment is appropriate for the case concerned.

It should be separately clear what exactly is the conflicts of interest with minor impact emerging in the form of ethical conflict, what exactly is the conflicts of interest with middle impact emerging in the form of interest and what exactly is the one with serious impact emerging in the form of corruption, and forms of punishment must be clearly defined.

Two or three years ago, few MPs initiated and drafted a bill on conflict of interest, but the bill is yet to get adopted.

The bill envisage indicates principles, code and values of behavior by parliament and cabinet members and other high-level officials and establishes which decision makings they must not partake in.

A good news is relevant standing committees of the Parliament is expected to consider the bill in few days.

Regardless of delay, the immediate adoption of the bill is vital for “purifying” the public service and further strengthening the good governance of the community. I am just wondering if the legislators are eager to pass the bill or not.

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